Scottish filmmakers celebrate life & work of Antonia Bird in new documentary

Published: 11 May 2016

Antonia Bird: From EastEnders to Hollywood receives World Premiere

Feature documentary Antonia Bird: From EastEnders to Hollywood by Scottish director Susan Kemp, Bridge of Allan based production company, Bofa Productions and Executive Producer, Mark Cousins will receive its World Premiere tonight at BFI Southbank.

Synopsis: In this new documentary, Susan Kemp explores the life and work of the great British director Antonia Bird, who died in 2013. Bird blazed a trail from the radical hotbed of the Royal Court Theatre in the 70s, through the ground-breaking early days of EastEnders and Casualty in the 80s, all the way to Hollywood in the 90s and back again. She always had something urgent to say, but her career was a long struggle to get her voice heard. Featuring many of her close collaborators, including Robert Carlyle, Irvine Welsh, Kate Hardie and Mark Cousins, this documentary is the first to examine Bird’s legacy, and to place her where she belongs – among the most important British film, TV and theatre directors of her era.

Producer, Adam Dawtrey said: "Antonia Bird was a true pioneer, the first British woman to direct a Hollywood movie, yet her name has been virtually written out of film history. So we're delighted that the BFI and Filmhouse are supporting our efforts to put Antonia back in the spotlight where she belongs, among the most important British film and TV directors of the past 40 years, by hosting this celebration of her remarkable career. Antonia was very much a Londoner, but Filmhouse was her second home. It was the cinema which launched her movie career when she won prizes at the Edinburgh International Film Festival for Safe and Priest."

The special screening at BFI London, which kicks off an Antonia Bird retrospective series, will be presented by director Susan Kemp, and producers Adam Dawtrey and Mary Bell of Bofa productions.

Antonia Bird had a strong Scottish connection having set up Scottish production company 4WayPictures with friends Mark CousinsRobert Carlyle and Irvine Welsh.

Bird’s film Safe won the Charles Chaplin Award for best first feature at EIFF. Priest also picked up the Michael Powell Award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1994, the importance of this award is highlighted in the documentary as an early sign of Bird’s talent.

Antonia Bird: EastEnders to Hollywood will also be shown as part of an Antonia Bird retrospective at The Filmhouse, Edinburgh later in the year.

The documentary has received support from the UK National Lottery through Creative Scotland Targeted Production Funding.

Rosie Crerar, Production Executive at Creative Scotland said: "Creative Scotland is delighted to have supported this documentary from the deft hand of Scottish filmmaker, Susan Kemp, in celebration of the ground-breaking career of one of the UK’s most talented yet under-valued directors, Antonia Bird.  The film arrives at a time when gender inequality remains a pressing issue in the international screen sector and as Creative Scotland undertakes its own Screen Equalities, Diversity & Inclusion Review. The film’s premiere at BFI Southbank launches the first retrospective of Bird’s work and is a fantastic opportunity for cinemagoers to reflect upon the unique vision and bold talents of this most innovative of directors."

Film Information:

Screenings: 12 May BFI, London and later in the year at the Filmhouse, Edinburgh
Director: Susan Kemp
Executive Producer: Mark Cousins
Producers: Mary Bell and Adam Dawtrey (Bofa Productions)
Featuring: Robert Carlyle, Kate Hardie, George Faber and Anita Dobson

Notes to Editors

Susan Kemp Biography

Susan Kemp worked at BBC Scotland from 1999 to 2008 as a series producer, producer, director and researcher on a wide range of factual and documentary series. She left the BBC to take a post-graduate degree in creative writing at Glasgow University, then in 2010 she became co-director of the masters programme in film exhibition and curation at Edinburgh University. She continues to work as a director on her own independent film projects, including Nord Atlantik Drift: A Portrait of Robert Alan Jamieson, and Writing Ensemble.

Creative Scotland

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