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Image of Charlotte Ginsborg, 22:22, film still

Charlotte Ginsborg discusses FLAMIN Production 22:22

Date posted: 12.10.2017

We caught up with artist filmmaker Charlotte Ginsborg ahead of the BFI London Film Festival premiere of her new film 22:22. The documentary paints a vivid portrait of Tom Sietas who holds the world record for static apnea (the ability to hold one's breath) which stands at a phenomenal 22 minutes and 22 seconds, a feat that has confounded scientists worldwide. 

How did you come across the phenomena of static apnea and what drew you to making a film about it?

A few years ago I read an article in The Guardian titled 'Super Humans' and I was immediately drawn to Tom Sietas and his story. At first it was a sense of disbelief and intrigue; how could it be physically possible for him to deny himself breath for so long without dying, and what could possibly drive someone to do this? Then I started to think about the visual and narrative potential that a film about Tom could offer. Water has been a repeated motif in my films, and I like to work with individuals through a documentary approach to reveal a sense of the magical, something beyond conscious thought, a slippage in our appreciation of reality. I wanted to make a film that centred around Tom's breath hold and how this ability to push himself to a limit of what is humanly possible reflects on the incredible power the mind has over the body.

At the heart of 22:22 is a record attempt, in which Tom is holding his breath in a meditative trance. How did you go about filming this static moment, and was the rest of the film stylistically and thematically influenced by its stillness?

The notion of stillness was very important to me. When I watched TV footage of Tom carrying out his world record attempts I was fascinated by the fact that the struggle he was undergoing, both mentally and physically, remained invisible. This contradiction was at the heart of the film, and was one of the reasons I combined Tom's static apnea with the kinetic, expressive movements of the dancers. For me they are a visual expression of what Tom is experiencing, an embodiment of his desires.

You've worked on a FLAMIN production before. How was the experience this time, and how do feel the affiliation with FLAMIN has helped you get to where you are now?

FLAMIN were very supportive in many ways. One can feel pretty isolated working as an independent filmmaker and so it is good to be able to develop and make a film with a team of people behind the scenes to help you. Because they are a small team it means you all get to know each other well and can all be very open about how he film is developing both creatively and practically. Of course the funding they offer is what is most useful as it means I can actually make the kind of work I want to make.

Many of your films are in the mid-length category. Is this a conscious decision, and does this effect the potential festival run of your films?

I have made films from five minutes through to sixty-five minutes and I usually find that the material suggests or even dictates what length the film should be. My films don't follow traditional narrative structures, and I often find the structure during the edit, which gives me the freedom to choose relatively freely how long a film should be. Having said that I am conscious of the conventions around duration, and so I often make films that are under 40 minutes as then they have more potential for festival distribution.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a feature-length documentary about four boxers who I have followed in their professional and personal lives over the last four years. I paired them with choreographers to develop dance sequences that they then perform in the film in locations relevant to their stories. I'm currently editing the film, which has become very much about father and son relationships played out through the seemingly 'macho' world of boxing. I am also working on a series of short films about the experiences of Syrian refugees living in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Commissioned as part of FLAMIN Productions round 6, 22:22 has its world premiere at BFI Southbank on Saturday 14 October as part of the BFI London Film Festival. 

Watch 22:22 at BFI London Film Festival

Find out more about FLAMIN Productions 

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