14th BFI FUTURE FILM FESTIVAL, 2021

"IT'S TIME TO CHANGE OUR NARRATIVE FROM ONE THAT FOCUSSES ON ALL OF OUR PAIN, TO ONE THAT CELEBRATES OUR JOY."

Abel Rubinstein
Dungarees
Drama / Romance
Section: MY TIME TO SHINE

Dungarees screens as part of the BFI Future Film Festival from 18-21 February, free on BFI Player

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A story of young love, as a transgender teen and a cis-gender teen spend their time together on a regular night, doing regular things. Or not.

Hi Abel thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?

Thank you so much for having me! Yes, these are odd times. I’ve been fine and getting on with my next short film, I’ve spent a lot of time re-drafting and perfecting!

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?

I don’t know whether this time itself has offered me inspiration. It’s more that I’ve managed to stay somewhat creative despite it.

You were one of VICE “Top Ten Filmmakers To Watch” and you had your World Premiere of Dungarees at the iconic BFI Flare, did that type of recognition add any additional pressure on you?

I was thinking about this, and I initially thought no. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he laughed in my face. He said I had multiple breakdowns. I’d choose to believe him if I were you!

In all honesty, there is a pressure to make the next project the best one yet, in many ways this pressure is a good thing. It pushes me to work as hard as I can and to achieve a standard of work I know I can reach.

Congratulations on having Dungarees selected for this year's BFI London Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

BFI London Film Festival! My little queer short film is playing alongside the best of the best. I can’t even describe how lucky I feel. Ever since I started filmmaking it was my dream to screen my work at LFF. Now that it’s actually here, I can't quite believe it.

Dungarees is a unique LGBTQ+ films in that you don't focus on the 'accepted' themes of LGBTQ+ films which tends to be more painful and sad, was this always your intention to make a film that celebrated the more positive side of the community?

Yes totally. It’s time to change our narrative from one that focusses on all of our pain, to one that celebrates our joy. Those sorrowful LGBTQ+ stories we see all the time do have great value. They educate audiences on the troubles we go through, but when every single LGBTQ+ film is showing these same hardships, it gets a bit like oppression porn.  What I try to highlight is that our queer love is no different to theirs, and we, surprisingly, can be just as happy!

Can you tell me a little bit about Dungarees, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

I came out as gay at age 14 and there was a weird external pressure to not live up to the gay stereotype of having a high pitch voice and being feminine. I heard things like "just because you're gay you don’t have to be camp" and "don’t be one of those gays". As much as I tried, I didn’t do too well! 

Just before I wrote Dungarees I started exploring my feminine side for the first time without the shame that followed me as a teenager. I loved expressing myself in new ways that I hadn’t before. I went on this journey with my boyfriend who happens to be transgender. When you're spending your entire life trying to escape femininity, your relationship with nail polish and everything “girly"  becomes fearful. He started to accept the fact that wearing nail polish is actually just a cool thing to do, and it didn’t make either him or me any less of a man. His story to accepting this fascinated me, because the stakes were so high. 

We always see these tropes in trans stories on screen. Wearing a dress and being uncomfortable, then coming out and all of a sudden they are these super masculine individuals. These stories don’t reflect the reality of being trans. I wanted to push the conversation forward and share a story that had not been told!

As a filmmaker do you ever draw from you over experiences or become inspired by people you meet?

Definitely both! I always put a little bit of myself into everything I do, it’s hard not to. I do however think of myself as an observer, listening to and watching the world around me. There are so many stories out there if you look hard enough.

 

What would you say has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making this film?

I’m constantly learning so it’s hard to pin point one! Maybe that my obsession with collaborating with actors and workshopping really has paid off. Their performances were incredible. It’s kind of scary to allow your actors to improvise, but that’s where the magic happens. This is something I will expand upon in future projects.

"Tell a story that you want to tell, a story that only you can tell."

Do you like to be flexible once a film is shooting or do you prefer to stick to your script as it is?

Definitely flexible, the script, to me, has the story and the character arc, but when we are on set the film is brought to life by actual people. Allowing them their freedom and creativity only adds to the project. Sticking entirely to the script would halt its potential. This flexibility isn’t just blind freedom though, it is all based on conversations around character arc, story and the purpose of each scene.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Where do I start! I am dyslexic and I hate academia! I loved writing stories as a kid. It was the only type of writing I found bearable. I could get lost in my imagination. I started making some little music videos in Media Studies and I loved it. Watching more and more films I came across Lukas Moodysson. His character driven films inspired me. I knew I wanted to develop my own voice and tell my own stories too. 

Would you say your style/approach to your films has changed much since your debut short?

I would argue no! We are always learning so improvements are inevitable, but the core of my voice has stayed the same. To add to this, each project has a style which serves the story best, but there is a common essence between them. They are all Abel Rubinstein films after all!

Do you think LGBTQ+ filmmakers should push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

YES! Of course, we all should. I want to hear all sorts of stories. Just from a consumers point of view, playing it safe often equals a lesser film. It is in all of our interest for the boundaries to be pushed. 

Are there any tips or pieces of wisdom you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

I don’t think any of us ever has it all worked out. It’s just about trying and failing. We should all strive to tell authentic stories. 

Tell a story that you want to tell, a story that only you can tell. Make the film that you want to watch.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Dungarees?

I want everyone to go home and paint their nails!

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