Director Toby Fell-Holden talks about racism and future plans ahead of Brixton Ritzy screening

By Jack Graham
March 12 2020, 11.00

An director whose work will be screened in Brixton tonight says he has experienced first hand the racism explored in the short film.

Toby Fell-Holden, 37, will appear at the Ritzy cinema alongside Gurinder Chadha for a screening of his internationally acclaimed Balcony.

Balcony tells the story of a teenage girl experiencing the difficulties of racial tension, as she begins to develop feelings for an immigrant girl.

The short has won many awards including the Berlin Crystal Bear, the Iris Prize, and even Best Short at 3 Oscar qualifying festivals.

It tackles head on the topics of racial tensions that are prevalent in the United Kingdom today.

When talking about the film’s inspiration Mr Fell-Holden admitted that he is no stranger to these themes.

He said: “I encountered different forms of racism, both overt and more
covert. That definitely fuels into the work and the world view.”

The film was written and produced in 2015, however he still feels as though the film is very relevant today.

Mr Fell-Holden said: “I was writing a film more drawing from my past
than what I had felt in the present.

“It was a film made and came out just before things like Brexit and suddenly all those things came back up in a more intense way.”

These sentiments of xenophobia are very clear to Mr Fell-Holden. He recalled one example when he experienced a confrontation in a hotel lobby, a man asked Mr Fell-Holden if he hated his country after producing such a film as Balcony.

Whilst Mr Fell-Holden has experienced these types of clashes in America, it is clear that racism in the UK is much more subtle.

He said: “I think that in America there is more of a violent and confrontational aspect to racism.

“People speak their mind a bit more in America, people are more direct, I don’t think that happens as much in the UK.

“Things are a little bit more unspoken, unsaid, and racism is a bit harder to pin down at times.”

Mr Fell-Holden said that one of his favourite parts of the job was working with the cast, especially Charlotte Beaumont, who plays the Tina, one of the lead roles.

He said: “Working with the actors was great, and Charlotte, she is the sort of person that will tell you if something doesn’t feel quite right, she’ll let you know.

“There were little changes that weren’t there in the script or in my mind that made the character more real.”

For Mr Fell-Holden one of the most important things a new writer or director to do is to finish the projects that you start.

Mr Fell-Holden said: “At the beginning, rarely are you going to have someone else’s material that is good.

“The more that you make writing a part of your routine until it becomes something that you’re not trying to get perfect, just trying to get things done is a big thing.”

Naturally he was thrilled that Balcony has received such recognition, providing a fantastic platform to allow his work as a director to reach new heights.

Whilst he is a big fan of other directors such as Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, he was a bit more coy about who might be joining him on his next project.

Mr Fell-Holden said: “There’re big exciting names but I have to wait and see.”

A screening of Balcony is being held alongside Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach tonight at the Ritzy Cinema, Brixton.

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