63-year-old Sally Potter has to be one of Britain’s most innovative filmmakers. She made a name for herself internationally with her 1992 picture Orlando in which Tilda Swinton portrayed the androgynous title character who lives for four hundred years.
Over the years the director has worked with a diverse range of actors — many of them big names — to deliver a wide range of intelligent films that have often experimented with cinematic form.
Her latest endeavor is Ginger & Rosa, the story of two British teens in Britain in the first half of the 1960s, played by Elle Fanning and Alice Englert. It opens in U.S. cinemas today (March 15), and it is perhaps one of Potter’s most straightforward films to date.
The director says: “I wanted to see if I could tell a story simply cinematically. It was almost like new territory for me to see how simple and transparent I could be in telling the story.”
At the center of the screenplay are the two characters of Ginger and Rosa.
“This is two girls growing up in the shadow of the Cold War and at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis when it seems the world might come to an end, their friendship seems like it’s going to come to an end too,” says Potter.
An act of betrayal changes the dynamics of the relationship.
Although it’s a period film set in Britain neither of the teens is portrayed by British-born actresses. Elle Fanning is American, and Alice Englert was born in Sydney.
“I fell in love with her actually,” says Sally Potter when asked about Fanning. The filmmaker maintains she didn’t deliberately seek out an American actress for the part, but Fanning’s talent impressed her.
“My casting director in L.A. introduced me to Elle Fanning. She was impeccably professional and with a profound empathy for a life and a time that could not have been in her direct experience,” says Potter.
The British director has been in New York this week promoting the picture. She told me she hasn’t been trying to “position” the film so it appeals to an American audience. She’s found that at festival screenings — and elsewhere — people have generally had an emotional response.
Potter says: “Many people of both genders and all ages have come up to me afterwards — some of them weeping — and said “this is my story.”‘