Our Specially Curated Season for Art of The Underground’s Canary Wharf Screen is now in Phase II: The Present. Each week, we interview one of our filmmakers about their film and their involvement in the programme.
This week, we speak to Yasmin Fedda, director of Breadmakers (2007), an award winning filmmaker whose work has been screened extensively, including at Sundance and IDFA. Yasmin is also a translator and editor working in the UK, Middle East and beyond, and is co-founder and film programmer of Reel Festivals, showcasing film, art and music from areas in conflict behind the headlines.
Breadmakers is a unique look at an Edinburgh bakery, run by a community of workers with learning disabilities, making a variety of breads for daily delivery to shops and cafes in the city.
Our programme manager Elhum Shakerifar interviewed Yasmin about the film and her work as a director.
> Tell me about how the film idea took shape and came to fruition?
I used to work at the Garvald Bakery in Edinburgh as a support worker for adults with learning disabilities and I really loved the atmosphere there, especially the support and creativity that everyone experienced. A while later I saw a competition for the Scottish Documentary Institute’s Bridging the Gap scheme that supports new filmmakers to make a short film. The competition was to make a film on the theme of ‘white’, and I was instantly inspired by the bakery and applied with this idea. I had met Edinburgh based producers Jim Hickey and Robin Mitchell and discussed the idea with them and they supported me in developing it. When I was commissioned I was very happy to be able to share this special place with people around the world.
> How did you build a relationship with the bakers in the film?
I had worked at the Garvald Centre for about a year before filming. The Garvald Centre is inspired by the work of Rudolph Steiner and his Social Therapy approach, creating an environment of support, fulfillment and creativity. The centre has many different workshops, from pottery to carpentry, and the bakery which I worked in. I started working there are as a support worker with adults with learning disabilities and not with the intention of making a film there. But after spending time there, I became really inspired by their approach. Having worked in the bakery before making a film, everyone there was used to me and I got to know the bakers and I understood the rhythms of the space. When I came in with cameraperson Veera Lehto, everyone knew me, and Veera slotted in. We both dressed in the bakery aprons and started filming, becoming part of the day’s activities and rhythms.
> It’s completely observational and feels like it was shot in a single day – how long did it take you to film?
It actually took us 2 weeks to film. Although it looks like a ‘day in the life’, the film is actually a conglomeration of many days filming. We needed that time as although everyone in the bakery knew me, I suddenly had a cameraperson with me, and we were filming, so it took a few days for everyone to get used to this. Over the days we captured the different stages of making bread and the social life of the bakery I wanted to share. Most importantly I was eager to capture the sense of spontaneity, creativity and enjoyment felt working at the bakery and so having time meant I could focus on the people I was interested in. For example, Thomas, who sings at the end of the film, gave us a spontaneous performance of ‘He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’. I knew that Thomas liked singing but I could not plan when he would sing, so by being around for 2 weeks I had the time to be able to capture these events as they happened.
> What about the film’s soundscape…
The bakery was not only interesting socially and visually but also aurally. The sounds of the machines, the hands kneading, the chatter and singing all came together everyday to create this unique space. When you walk into the bakery you know you are in it from the sounds that you hear. I wanted to explore this in the film itself and worked with sound designer Marcelo di Olivera to create it. I gave him several elements of sounds in the bakery, from singing, to kneading to the sound of ovens, and he created a rich soundscape that worked with the rhythm of the bakery.
> What made you want to become a filmmaker?
I have always wanted to make films since I was very young. After studying social anthropology at university I decided to continue and study visual anthropology as I wanted to learn to make films as a way to share peoples experiences of the world and share their stories, and to challenges prejudices and misunderstanding.
> Birds Eye View is a platform that spotlights women directors – what advice would you give to women starting out in film?