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Quick Q+A with: Jesse Gassongo-Alexander

CREATIVE: Jesse Gassongo-Alexander

L&S: What inspired you to create this film?

Jesse: The themes in the movie were inspired by ideas that I had from a very young age. One time I brought home a letter from school and my mum got really upset because the letter stated that in a few months I had to choose my GCSE’s and my mum felt that the world was asking me to grow up so fast. So from my youth, I’ve had these themes associated with youth that I wanted to explore. So that’s what the film looks, and how you prepare yourself for those moments.

L&S: Has the current political climate influenced any elements of this film?

Jesse: I wouldn’t say it’s influenced it, but it highlights the importance of what we’re trying to show. There are many different groups, such as women, people of colour, young people, disabled people who are vulnerable so I think for those reasons, these projects like Bloom tap into that.

L&S: What was you're favourite part of creating this film?

Jesse: I think it was whilst writing it and seeing it come to life. What we’ve got is this short film that tells the story of four girls which you realise is the story of many girls and many young people, and it’s also about sharing art.

So we have an exhibition of female artists who have created pieces of work in response to the film, and we’ve used universal themes to create the film. So with these artists, they've created these pieces of art, which are relevant. So I think that’s been my favourite part, seeing people share my work and interpret it and building this sisterhood within the project.

A still from Bloom

L&S: This is a coming of age film, and that style of cinema has been around for decades. What is it about Bloom that separates itself from other coming-of-age films?

Jesse: I agree that there are many coming of age films, but I would say what makes it stand alongside those films as opposed to different is the fact that it’s a film that is reflective. We’re all going to see what happens within the film, but the way we start to perceive it is different from one another. I think some coming of age films are very specific, but this is supposed to be more natural and just reflective of different experiences young people go through.

L&S: Are there any similarities between the characters and people you know?

Jesse: It’s a mix, there are inspirations from my family, to a time in my life where I lived in Australia and I was inspired by a group of friends I saw hanging out.

L&S: How long were you living in Australia for?

Jesse: Just under three years. I’m an actor so I went to a performing arts school called The Brits School. I was doing some plays, television shows and realised I needed a break and I went to live in Australia for a bit to just figure out what I was doing. Around this time I was 18-years-old!

L&S: Would you recommend to a lot of young black British creatives to travel and live outside of their ‘norm’?

Jesse: Completely, I think you gain perspective. I think everyone - especially for our community - should gain new experiences as its key to seeing different perspectives that can influence your art.

L&S: Do you have any favourite black British creative right now?

Jesse: Yes, I love anything Idris Elba does, Steve McQueen and Lenny Henry has done some incredible things in front of and behind the camera. Also The Mandem on The Wall.

L&S: We’re at a time now were female representation in film and TV is evolving, How do you feel Bloom contributes towards that?

Jesse: The way it’s different is that it shows these four girls, their dreams and they are portrayed as three-dimensional characters. It was so key when I was writing it that I was able to give these characters different dimensions and that they weren’t perceived as just objects or portraying a stereotypical tropes. It was all about them having real feelings, real dreams and living with real fears.

L&S: Women in film are usually infantilised or oversexualised. Was it important for you to combat those stereotypes in Bloom?

Jesse: Yes, I always say its pivotal that we show the change we want, and that goes for anything. So for that reason it was important to show women beyond those barriers.

Lasharne Anderson who plays Ruby in Bloom

L&S: Who are some of the women who inspired you, and shaped your vision of womanhood?

Jesse: My mum and my aunties for sure. For me personally, my mother always said to me; she can’t teach me how to be a man but she can teach me how to be a human. That saying always stuck with me and has always lived on with me. There are also people like Angela Davis and Maya Angelou who inspire me because they really championed what they believe in.

L&S: How did you develop the concept for the exhibition?

When I finished writing my film, I created a mood board and a lot of the stuff I was using was from artists who’s work I’d seen online. So when I saw these artists and the different themes in the film, I thought let me see if these artists will come on board and create artwork as a response to it. So I sent the artists the script, they loved it, and created art work reacting to it.

What should people expect from the Bloom screening and exhibition?

Jesse: The film is made to give dialogue and to look at things and potentially raise some questions, the exhibition is for people to explore and go into another world.

BLOOM Film Screening & Exhibition Launch takes place Thursday 9 February 6-9 PM at The Copeland Gallery

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