Edinburgh film graduates see global success at renowned art festivals

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Two film graduates from Queen Margaret University (QMU) have achieved considerable success at renowned film festivals worldwide.

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Edinburgh-based Alexandra Gilbert found herself stuck in Ukraine for over a month while working on her documentary Welcome to Chernobyl, after lockdown came into effect.

Fortunately, as a result of Ukraine’s own lockdown measures, she was able to return to the accommodation in Kiev that she had been staying in and continue to attend classes online, while also being able to gather some additional drone footage.

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(L-R) Alexandra Gilbert on location in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and a still from Margherita Mazza's film ALBA.(L-R) Alexandra Gilbert on location in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and a still from Margherita Mazza's film ALBA.
(L-R) Alexandra Gilbert on location in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and a still from Margherita Mazza's film ALBA.

The film follows Tanya, a tour guide working in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

It has been entered into various film festivals, winning the award for Best Documentary Film at the Screen Power Film Awards, Best Female Director at Indie Film Fest, and Best Documentary from Monthly Indie Shorts.

It also been nominated for Best Short Documentary at the Kalakari Film Fest and reached the semi-finals of the Dumbo Film Festival and Chippewa Valley Film Festival.

"As chaotic as the whole experience was, I am grateful that it happened," said Alexandra. "I’ve learnt so much from creating this project, but also about the reality of the disaster in Chernobyl and those who experienced it. Listening to people's stories is so valuable to me - I will never forget this adventure, and I can't wait for the next one."

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Margherita Mazza, who left QMU last year, has also seen her graduation film ALBA collect various accolades, such as an Honorable Mention for Best Student Film at the New York International Film Awards and making the official selection for the Toronto International Women Film Festival.

Margherita said: "I decided that I wanted to focus the film on the topic of 'loss', and I wanted to narrate the emotionally complex and conflicting relationship between two brothers. I deliberately chose to not describe in detail their relationship or what happened in the past because I wanted the audience to be free with their interpretation and maybe to empathise with the characters."

Walid Salhab and Graham Drysdale, lecturers in Film and Media at QMU, said: "We are thrilled to hear of the ongoing success of both films on the international circuit. It has been a pleasure teaching and working with them during their time at the university, and we wish them all the best for their filmmaking careers.”

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