Five Questions with Patricia Francis

Patricia Francis is an independent filmmaker who uses her films to encourage inquiry into social inequality. Patricia is the director of The Art of Oppression (2021), a documentary about three women artists…

Patricia Francis is an independent filmmaker who uses her films to encourage inquiry into social inequality. Patricia is the director of The Art of Oppression (2021) – a documentary about three women artists who use their art to articulate their experiences of belonging, identity trauma and loss – which we are proud to be premiering online.

Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?

I worked in broadcast media for a number of years and set up Syncopate Media production company and I made and produced films that highlighted what I considered to be social injustices. But I wanted to tell stories about the Black British experience and was awarded funding to make Many Rivers To Cross and Making Waves. The former offering a non-London perspective of the Windrush experience and the latter providing a raw account of growing up Black in Britain during the 1980’s. It asked to what extent has the social and political context changed for Black people today.

I am also a post graduate researcher at Nottingham Trent University. My research analyses the female voice in documentary film. I suppose The Art of Oppression is an extension of my research.

‘At the intersection of art, social injustice, and womanhood, The Art of Oppression, is a documentary about resilience and hope.’ Why did you decide to make this documentary?

It was vitally important to give the women artists featured in the film agency and to place the emphasis on their voices and the work they produce not only as artists but also as women. I wanted to make a film that demonstrates the depth of art and to show that meaning is often inherent in art. I think there are many people who don’t appreciate that art can talk to them and reflect their lived experiences. I wanted to make a film that showed that art comes from a place of emotion and makes statements that we can engage with; agree or disagree with. I also wanted to show the people from which art evolves. Art can transcend language and echo our emotions which is the reason I say ‘art has the power to speak when we don’t have the words’.

Tell us about one of the most memorable parts of making the documentary?

‘The Art of Oppression’ was made during the lockdown. We followed government and broadcasting guidance. I felt a huge responsibility to ensure that everyone involved in the production remained safe. I was conscious of entering the artists private spaces and so was hyper cautious. Filming with masks, sanitising constantly, checking that no one had or were experiencing Covid symptoms, and doing our best to socially distance was challenging, whilst ensuring guidelines were not breeched and the shoot ran to schedule. I’m pleased to say it all worked out. I only had three weeks to film the women. We had set days to carry out that filming, so I could only capture the progress made, on those specific days.

It was wonderful to see the artists at work. They are passionate about their work. Their lived experiences are very different in many respects and yet they share a marginalised existence that they articulate in their work.

What is the most inspiring cultural project you’ve been involved in?

I’ve been involved in a number of projects that I have enjoyed. Making Waves offered me insight into two generations of Black Britons and the politics behind the idea of being Black and British. I was also able to explore with community groups the idea that we are all walking archives. The clothes we wear, the music we listen to, all that defines us today become aspects that creates our history. Understanding this enables us to appreciate the value we offer, in our present state, to both our future and what instantly becomes our past.

Tips on how to stay creative during lockdown?

Lockdown brings a range of emotions and sadness for many and it might therefore be difficult to conceive of being creative. Creativity enables a means of escape so think about what it is you enjoy. Whether it is listening to music, drawing, writing (poems, stories), singing or dancing, you may think of other examples. You can do this in the comfort of your own home. Just try it.

Positive things can evolve out of difficulty.

Find out more about the The Art of Oppression film premiere and talk, Thursday 11 March, 6-7.30pm

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