Kim Longinotto, the UK director of films such as Cannes award winner Sisters In Law and Sundance festival darling Rough Aunties, is the recipient of this year’s Hot Docs’ Outstanding Achievement Award. With ten of her films showing in a retrospective during the festival, Longinotto talked to realscreen about the honor and what she’s working on now.
What does the Hot Docs outstanding achievement award mean to you?
It gives an opportunity for people to come and see lots of the films, which is wonderful. It doesn’t often happen, which I really like. I’m really grateful.
Seeing your body of work compiled for a retrospective, what strikes about the collection as a whole?
I think it’s a good choice [of films], because it’s quite a varied choice. I’m looking forward to going [to Toronto] and hearing what people will say, because I don’t go to many festivals.
What are some of the things you’ve learned over your career?
[With] my first film [Pride of Place, about her English boarding school], [it] was such a striking feeling – when I was at my boarding school, I felt that the school was the normality and I was weird because I didn’t fit in, and I was wrong and horrible. Then when I showed the film for the first time at the London Film Festival, all these people came up, saying ‘God, that’s a weird school.’
It taught me that in each country, there are lots of different self-contained worlds, and I suppose each film has taught me that there’s no such thing as insider or outsider. I’ve always been looking for people that live somehow outside of what’s accepted and [are] trying to do the best they can within it. I’ve met the most fabulous people, like in Shinjuku Boys, the women that live as men. They’d said that they’d been filmed by Japanese film crews and laughed at and looked down at all their lives. So we [Longinotto and co-director Jano Williams] are two women who come over from England, who look a bit like them. We’re not in short skirts and high heels. We’re doing a job, we’re like them and they said it was so lovely to feel like we were doing something together and they were going to be respected. That’s a world within a world.
What are you working on now?
I just finished [a film, produced with UK-based prodco Ginger]. It’s set in Northern India and it’s about a woman called Sampat Pal [Devi] and the Pink Sari Gang [otherwise known as the Gulabi Gang, a female vigilante group]. I’m trying to think about how to get it shown in India; that’s my goal. I’ve got to start doing that now. It will air on Channel 4.
Look for more with Longinotto in realscreen‘s May/June issue. Hot Docs runs from April 29 – May 9 in Toronto and Longinotto will receive the Outstanding Achievement Award during the Hot Docs Awards Presentation on May 7.