In the 2010s, it was still possible to have a membership at a DVD shop, where you could watch as many films as you wanted for a few dollars each month. British screenwriter and director Georgia Oakley worked nearby one such DVD shop in her early 20s, and every day when she walked home, she picked up new films to watch.
Those formative years allowed Oakley to absorb the influences of feminist and queer filmmakers, who were making movies that challenged the norms of gender and sexuality at the time. Oakley began writing and directing her own short films: Bored explored the complexities of boundaries in queer friendships, and the short documentary We Did Not Fall From The Sky followed the lives of three transgender women navigating Indian society.
Now a decade later, she marks her feature film debut with Blue Jean, a historical drama about a lesbian PE teacher living a double life under England's Section 28, legislation that banned the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools. For it, Oakley received a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer.
There are countless films that have influenced Oakley's work, and naming only five is difficult when they change day to day. "Every time I do it, it's different." After all, she still keeps that practice of soaking in new cinema like a sponge, especially when she's in the process of writing a new film.
"When I'm writing, I try to watch a film every day, if not every other day. Often, I'll write to lunchtime and then I'll watch a film," says Oakley. "Because, particularly when you're writing, I feel you have to be watching films and reading. That's one of my favorite things about the writing process."
Below, she shares with A.frame five of the films that have most influenced her.
Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel
Written and Directed by: Agnès Varda
I'm a huge Agnès Varda fan, and Le Bonheur is one that I come back to. I love the use of color, and the way that she shot it on film feels really contemporary. For me, it feels like it could have been made in the last few years. And I love how there's the parable or the fairy tale quality of it, and how close it feels to being a horror film at times. There's something that pushes a genre element. Maybe not intentionally; maybe I'm imagining it.
That's something that we tried to do with Blue Jean as well, where, yes, this is kind of a straight up drama — and a portrait drama at that — but also there are moments where it feels like it's turning into a thriller, but it's not a thriller. That was something that we spoke about when developing Blue Jean. I could talk about that film for ages.
Written and Directed by: Céline Sciamma
In terms of queer cinema, Tomboy has always been one of the films that I keep coming back to, because it came out at a time when I decided that I wanted to start making films but was not sure if I was actually going to be able to do it. I remember that film coming out and feeling like, 'Okay, this is probably not necessarily going to be anything like the kinds of films that I end up making, but the sensitivity with which that story is told feels ahead of its time with its approach to gender identity.' It is so brilliant.
I love how it also feels fun for all ages. The other day I was googling whether it is actually appropriate for children or not, because I was going to show it to my 6-year-old stepdaughter, and it probably could be shown to a 6-year-old! It's so moving, and delicate, and simple in a way, but complex. Céline Sciamma is one of my big heroes.
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay | Written by: Lynne Ramsay and Rory Stewart Kinnear
I'm a big Lynne Ramsay fan. I'm definitely inspired by the visceral experience of watching that film — how she uses color and symbolism — and, as an adaptation of a book, it sticks out as an example of a film that takes the source material and elevates it. It's an amazing book, but when you read the script, it's so cinematic. It doesn't feel like it was ever a novel. That's something that I definitely aspire to when working on adaptations.
Written and Directed by: Joanna Hogg
That film came out when I had just got the first round of funding for Blue Jean, and our exec from BBC Films, who also financed The Souvenir, said, 'I think you're really going to love this film. I'm going to sneak you into an early screening of it.' I remember just being so moved. There are so many different parts of that film that I found strangely relatable.
I keep coming back to that film, because there is something about Joanna Hogg's process — she doesn't work with a screenplay but with a template. The lead actress had not seen a script when she was cast, or at all during the process. A lot of filmmakers try to have actors that are improvising without knowing where the story is going, but I think it's rarely achieved with as much poignancy as that film. The Souvenir is an instant classic.
Written and Directed by: Lucrecia Martel
I love how it unravels in such a mysterious way. You're thrown into this experience, and there isn't a conventional narrative. Her films are a window into a world, and most of the time I'm thinking, 'How on earth was this achieved?' There's this puzzle in my mind. It feels like you're watching a documentary, but you're not watching a documentary. The energy of it is amazing. You could watch the film 10 times, and you would notice different things.
As somebody who loves watching Spanish and South American cinema, I feel like Lucrecia Martel's films must have had such a huge impact on the generation of Spanish filmmakers and South American filmmakers that have come through after her, because I see so much of her work in their work.
Reporting by Jireh Deng