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SUNDANCE 2021 Midnight

Prano Bailey-Bond • Director of Censor

“I’m obsessed with the video-nasty era”

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- We caught up with the Welsh director to talk about her atmospheric feature debut, the opening-night film of Sundance’s haunting Midnight section

Prano Bailey-Bond • Director of Censor

Welsh director Prano Bailey-Bond talked to us about her atmospheric feature debut, Censor [+see also:
film review
interview: Prano Bailey-Bond
film profile
]
, the opening night film of the Sundance Film Festival’s haunting Midnight section.

Cineuropa: What was the genesis of Censor?
Prano Bailey-Bond:
It all started with me reading this article in a horror magazine – it was about film censors working during the Hammer Horror era, and the things they would look out for to cut from a film. It prompted a question in me: if violent films are supposed to drive a person to commit violent acts, what protects the censor from losing control? That was really the starting point, and from there, I delved into this whole subject. I’m a massive fan of some of the films that came out of the “video-nasty era”, too. That period is absolutely fascinating when it comes to censorship and societies’ reaction to horror, so it was a no-brainer to focus on that time.

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Why does the period of video nasties resonate with you?
I’m obsessed with the video-nasty era, both because I love a lot of the films from that period and because the UK’s reaction to them was so extreme. I find the whole thing totally fascinating. The job of a film censor is so unique, too: they have to examine movies with both a subjective and an objective viewpoint at once, and to think of them working during this climate of hysteria around horror films, being the moral line of judgement, only makes the job more complex and interesting. And the horror films that came out of this period – like The Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Suspiria – these are the films that my generation grew up watching. As a result, they’ve inspired so many horror filmmakers working today.

It feels delightfully giallo; what were your influences?
That’s cool that it felt giallo to you. I was pulling inspiration from lots of different places, really. There are the films within the film, and I’ve always been inspired by directors like Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, so I wanted to draw on the styles of their movies because they worked during this era. Then, for the real world of the feature – grey, 1980s Britain – I was looking at real-life photography from the period. Photographers like Paul Graham and Martin Parr, who captured the everyday, almost bog-standard 1980s Britain in their images – they were very influential.

Niamh Algar puts in an excellent performance; was Enid hard to cast?
We worked with a brilliant casting director called Nanw Rowlands, who was absolutely amazing. We saw a lot of people for the role of Enid, partly because there wasn’t any specific age that she had to be, so we could be open about seeing actresses of different ages. Niamh came in and instantly blew us away. I’d already met her on the Screen Stars of Tomorrow scheme, and I’d seen her in The Virtues, so I knew she was an amazing talent, and a lovely person, but when she read for the role, she tuned into Enid completely.

How did you go about capturing the era?
My DoP, Annika Summerson, and I made the decision early on to shoot on film, so we shot on Kodak 35mm, with some additional footage on other formats, such as VHS and Super 8mm. Shooting on film really supported the period look we were aiming for. The costume design was absolutely key to achieving the period look, too, and our costume designer, Saffron Cullane, did an incredible job. She’s so detailed, right down to sourcing underwear from the era, even though we never see the underwear itself. She wanted to get the shape of the clothes as accurate as possible. The effects are both in-camera effects and post-production VFX, too.

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