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Unearthing a poignant and powerful plot ‘Pretty Red Dress’ premieres at BFI London Film Festival.

The cast of ‘Pretty Red Dress’ including lead actress Alexandra Burke, lead actor Natey Jones and supporting actress Temilola Olatunbosun attended the premiere at BFI London Film Festival. Alongside the cast, the director Dionne Edwards, choreographer Johannes Radebe and producer Georgia Goggin also walked the red carpet.

‘Pretty Red Dress’ revolves around a South London family who welcomes the return of Travis (Natey Jones) after some time in jail. Their lives begin to unravel after Travis is found wearing a dress by his partner Candice (Alexandra Burke) and daughter Kenisha (Temilola Olatunbosun). A waltz between femininity and masculinity the project examines black masculinity and also family dynamics.

The first in her filmography, Alexandra Burke describes what it was like working on the film. 

‘A dream come true, absolute dream come true’.

Alexandra Burke also goes on to thank both the director and producer for the opportunity. She says: ‘I really do have Dionne and Georgia to thank because they saw something in me that I haven’t seen and I just kind of went with the flow. I am not a trained actress and I take direction very well and I love that I worked with such an amazing director that guided me throughout everything. Dionne made me feel so comfortable, so the whole process was magical, honestly.’

She also explains to us the similarities between herself and the role of Candice: ‘It’s so weird because when I read part of the script I realised that Candice and I are quite similar. Her morals and what she stands for, I stand for, I remember doing the audition on Zoom and I said to Dionne and to Georgia ‘just so you know if you don’t pick me it’s okay, but I am Candice’. They just laughed at me, I said it with such confidence, not thinking ‘gosh I overstepped my mark here’, but I felt like I was heard because I relate to her in so many different ways. She is such a family-orientated person, she loves to sing, she loves to dance, and she loves to act and that’s me. But also at the same time, she is so vibrant and electrifying and I wanted to embrace her and be somebody else’.

Starring alongside Alexandra Burke, actor Natey Jones who plays Travis explores how the role challenged him: ‘I love any opportunity to be challenged.

He continues: ‘I felt like reading the script, this is an opportunity to challenge myself as an artist, as an actor by doing something I haven’t done before and that’s telling the story of a black man in London exploring his femininity in a world where he needs his masculinity to survive, or he feels he needs masculinity to survive. Showing the strength of vulnerability in a black man. As black men, we are often hyper-sexualised and seen as aggressive and it was a great opportunity to show the levels of humanity within a black man.’

I asked what it was like bringing the director’s vision to life, he responded: ‘Working with Dionne she likes to work with pieces that are nuanced and complicated and that are real. She has the desire to tell real stories, not necessarily stories that you see on the screen but she likes to create people that she has seen in real life and an opportunity to play the character is authentic on so many different levels and so appealing as an actor.’

He also comments on the highlights of filming ‘Pretty Red Dress’ and says: ‘The main highlights of filming was just being with a group of talented actors and actresses and bouncing off each other and being vulnerable and sharing the experience with each other. There were so many moments in this film where it can be sad, and upsetting but there are so many moments of joy within the film. Again that’s Dionne putting nuance into a story that could be tragic, could be violent but actually in reality you always have a mix of emotions.’

A rising actress, Temilola Olatunbosun commented on her character Kenisha and said: ‘I love her, she has got so much personality.’ She later continued: ’I like that she’s not afraid to show herself off’.

In addition to the captivating story, ‘Pretty Red Dress’ also includes a range of Tina Turner tracks that form the musical canvas of the film. Choreographer and dancer Johannes Radebe who also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing spoke about Dionne’s vision and the music. He explains: ‘her vision was very clear, she said to me we are paying homage to Tina Turner and with Tina comes power and strength, that is the thing that is also reflected in this film.’

A momentous moment for a homegrown UK film to premiere at London Film Festival, producer Georgia Goggin spoke about the experience: ‘it’s so exciting to be at the London Film Festival, ‘Pretty Red Dress’ is a London film, it was shot here, it’s set here, most of the people who made it live here, so it feels totally right that it’s premiering here at home. It means that all our families and friends can come and see it because if you premiere abroad very often you will go on your own, so that is very special.’

‘The experience of making ‘Pretty Red Dress’ was in lots of ways hard and long, but also so, so rewarding. It’s so magical to see something that you thought about, it would be seven years now actually up on the screen. We are actually going to watch it again in fifteen minutes and I can’t wait.’

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