Michelle Williams Gamaker
and Powell + Pressburger

+ Michelle Williams Gamaker in conversation with Dr Kulraj Phullar

Michelle Williams Gamaker’s stunning, beautifully-staged films trouble the too often overlooked political dynamics trapped in classic cinema. Calling her work ‘fictional activism’, she imagines alternative scenarios where marginalised brown characters take control of the films in which they appear, reformulating narratives and disturbing received histories. House of Women (2017) drastically reimagines casting sessions for Kanchi in Black Narcissus in a deliberately dissonant, modern setting. Thieves (2023) meanwhile sees rebellious Sabu and Anna May Wong turn the tables on Michael Powell and his crew, during the making of The Thief of Baghdad, with electrifying results.

We are delighted to also welcome Williams Gamaker to discuss her work, the issues it raises, and her interests in Powell and Pressburger, with Dr Kulraj Phullar.
William Fowler,

Michelle Williams Gamaker is an artist filmmaker. Since 2014, she has been developing Fictional Activism: the restoration of marginalised film stars of colour as central figures, who return in her works as brown protagonists to challenge the fictional injustices to which they have been historically consigned.

By proposing critical alternatives to imperialist storytelling in British and Hollywood studio films, she interrogates cinema by sabotaging the casting process and utilising cinema’s tools against itself.

Williams Gamaker is joint winner of Film London’s Jarman Award (2020) and exhibits her films nationally and internationally, including BFI Flare (2017) and BFI London Film Festivals 2018, 2021, Aesthetica Short Film Festival (winner of Best Experimental Film, 2021 and 2023) London Short Film Festival (2022, 2024) and Sharjah Film Platform 6 (2023).

Williams Gamaker’s major institutional solo, Our Mountains are Painted on Glass premiered Thieves, her first film in Fictional Revenge at South London Gallery.

It is currently on show at Dundee Contemporary Arts and will tour to Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2024.

She is a Reader in BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and is currently a British Academy Wolfson Fellow, where she is developing her filmmaking as Critical Affection.

Dr Kulraj Phullar is a Film Studies scholar based in London. His areas of interest include classic Hollywood and film noir, British colonial and diasporic cinemas, and popular Indian cinemas.

He has taught at several universities and film schools, and currently works at MetFilm School in Ealing and as a guest tutor on the Film Studies, Programming and Curating MA at the National Film and Television School.

Written and Directed by: Michelle Williams Gamaker
Story Consultant: Elan Gamaker
Producer: Josh Llewelyn
Cinematographer: Tom Wright
Editor: Michelle Williams Gamaker
Sound Recordist: Martin Clarke
Sound Designer: Sara Pinheiro

Kelly Hunter (anonymous reader)
Krishna Istha
Jasdeep Kandola
Tina Mander
Arunima Rajkumar
UK 2017
14 mins

Written and Directed by: Michelle Williams Gamaker
Producer: Qila Gill, Marginalia Pictures
UK 2023
6 mins

Written and Directed by: Michelle Williams Gamaker
Story Consultant: Elan Gamaker
Producer: Melanie Cura Daball
Cinematographer: Tom Wright
Editor: Elan Gamaker
Original Music by Aaron Cupples

Charlotte Gallagher (Lotta Woods)
Mark Gillis (Michael, the director)
Krishna Istha (Sabu)
Ananya Jaidev (the silver maiden)
Catherine Lord (the Sultan)
Lucy May Orange (the conductor)
Dahong Wang (Anna May Wong)
UK 2023
28 mins

The Small Back Room
Fri 1 Dec 18:10 (+ intro); Sun 10 Dec 18:30; Sat 16 Dec 20:45; Fri 22 Dec 18:20; Wed 27 Dec 20:30; Sat 30 Dec 15:00
Oh… Rosalinda!!
Sat 2 Dec 11:45; Wed 13 Dec 20:45
Lazybones + Her Last Affaire
Sat 2 Dec 15:20; Wed 20 Dec 17:50
The Love Test + Something Always Happens
Sun 3 Dec 15:30; Tue 19 Dec 20:20
Library Talk: The Glass Pearls
Mon 4 Dec 18:30 BFI Reuben Library
Wanted for Murder + intro by Simon McCallum, BFI curator
Mon 4 Dec 20:40
Projecting the Archive: The End of the River + intro by film scholar Dr Kulraj Phullar
Tue 5 Dec 18:20
The Phantom Light
Wed 6 Dec 20:30; Sun 17 Dec 12:30
Peeping Tom
Thu 7 Dec 20:45 (+ intro); Sat 9 Dec 15:00 (+ Doesn’t Exist magazine launch and panel discussion hosted by Victor Fraga); Fri 15 Dec 20:50; Mon 18 Dec 20:45; Thu 21 Dec 18:00; Sat 23 Dec 18:00; Fri 29 Dec 18:15
The Red Shoes
From Fri 8 Dec
The Red Shoes in the Spotlight
Fri 8 Dec 18:00
Bluebeard’s Castle (Herzog Blaubarts Burg)
Fri 8 Dec 20:40; Fri 15 Dec 18:10 (+ intro by writer Lillian Crawford); Sat 23 Dec 13:30
Crown v. Stevens + Behind the Mask (aka The Man Behind the Mask)
Sat 9 Dec 12:40; Sat 23 Dec 15:00
The Tales of Hoffmann
Sat 9 Dec 17:30; Tue 12 Dec 20:20 (+ intro by Andrew Moor, Manchester Metropolitan University); Sat 16 Dec 14:45; Sat 30 Dec 17:30
Honeymoon (Luna de miel)
Sun 10 Dec 13:25; Thu 28 Dec 20:40
Queering Powell + Pressburger
Tue 12 Dec 18:00
Experimenta: Michelle Williams Gamaker and Powell + Pressburger + Michelle Williams Gamaker in conversation with Dr Kulraj Phullar
Wed 13 Dec 18:05
They’re a Weird Mob
Sat 16 Dec 17:45; Fri 29 Dec 20:40
Espionage: Never Turn Your Back on a Friend / A Free Agent + intro
Sun 17 Dec 15:15
Age of Consent
Fri 22 Dec 20:45; Wed 27 Dec 18:15
A Matter of Life and Death
Sat 23 Dec 15:00 BFI IMAX
Black Narcissus
Sat 30 Dec 14:30 BFI IMAX

With thanks to

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
Questions/comments? Contact the Programme Notes team by email