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MA Directing graduate Gabriella Blumberg nominated at the 2022 PIEoneer Awards

By Elise Czyzowska

10 June 2022

Each year, the PIEoneer Awards celebrate innovation and achievement across the global education industry. Award categories range from Digital Innovation of the Year, to Language Educator of the Year, as well as the subject of today’s blog, Alumni of the Year.

Gabriella Blumberg, an MA Directing graduate from MetFilm School London, has been nominated for Alumni of the Year at the 2022 PIEoneer Awards, and we couldn’t be more excited for her. MetFilm Director, Jonny Persey, said this of the achievement:

‘This award chimes so well with our mission, to create an environment from which our graduates can pass seamlessly into the professional world, the world over. We were thrilled to be nominated for submitting Juliana Matsubara in 2019, and to be nominated again with Gabriella is a testament to our wonderful graduates.

‘We are particularly proud of Gabriella’s genuinely pioneering documentary and social impact filmmaking work, and we were delighted to be able to support her with her Street Smart project, in which she used a grant won in our Smart Screen Creative Awards to showcase the ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship of people that may be overlooked due to the location of their work. As an institution, it is an honour to be nominated alongside a host of other illustrious organisations.’

Gabriella’s recent projects

One of the projects supporting Gabriella’s PIEoneer nomination was the 2019 short documentary Near Not Far. The project highlighted the breast health crisis in Limpopo, South Africa, and was presented to the government to incite change in the healthcare system.

Thanks to the campaign that this documentary inspired, a breast and cervical screening unit is now being set up in Tintswalo Hospital.

Following Near Not Far, Gabriella worked as a producer for the 2021 feature documentary, I Am Here. This film follows Ella Blumenthal, a 98-year-old woman who has maintained her feisty, magnetic personality despite facing the horrors of the Holocaust. I Am Here went on to win three Audience Choice awards, two Best Director awards, and, most notably, the Jury Award for Best South African Documentary at the Durban International Film Festival. In March 2022, the documentary was also released by Blue Fox Entertainment, and has since been shown in over 80 cinemas across the United States.

L: Gabriella posing alongside the poster for her latest project. R: On set for Near Not Far

Inspiring connection and change

As with many great creatives, Gabriella is drawn to particular projects because of her personal connections to the subject matter, and the feeling that she can play a role in telling important stories to the world. For Near Not Far, she explained how her motivation came from a family history of breast cancer:

‘I have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer due to a faulty gene (BRCA1), and in 2021 I decided to have a risk-reducing double mastectomy. These experiences have inspired me to highlight the breast health crisis in South Africa, as well as working in the UK-based organisation Befriend Your Boobs to create content that highlights breast health for young viewers.’

With I Am Here, Gabriella was similarly ‘motivated to share [Ella]’s message and light into a world that unfortunately needs it’. Documentaries that center on the life of a single person are a big undertaking, especially so for the subject, and the success of the project shows the power of the story. As Gabriella added:

‘Ella’s story is not only remarkable because of her experience of survival, but in spite of them. It is her boundless and infectious energy that is truly something to behold. She encourages us to speak to people that are different to us in order to gain a sense of understanding, and to ultimately limit xenophobia, racism, and discrimination.’

A still of Ella from I Am Here

Gabriella’s time at MetFilm School

Speaking on her time at MetFilm School, where Gabriella studied MA Directing, she said:

‘It was a marvel to be surrounded by like-minded, ambitious individuals at the School. I developed the skills and language needed to direct actors, and the course places a lot on the practical application of skills, which gave me the confidence and experience to jump straight into the film world.

MetFilm School opened my eyes to the international film industry, helping me to secure global distribution deals for my first feature film. Without my time at MetFilm School, I don’t think I would have been able to turn my passion into my career.’

The Lisa Neely Incubation Fund

In 2018, Gabriella took part in the MetFilm School Smart Screen Creative Awards, and was nominated in our ‘Impact’ category. As part of this, she was able to access a £5000 award in honour of the School’s former Dean Lisa Neely, supported by Arts Alliance Productions and MetFilm School’s co-founder Thomas Hoegh.

Gabriella used this prize money to create a short documentary for social media focusing on entrepreneurs on the streets of Johannesburg. The project, titled Street Smart, was created with the aim of showcasing the ingenuity, creativity, and entrepreneurship of people who may be overlooked due to the location of their work.

‘With this grant, I had the possibility of capturing the people that truly inspire me’ – Gabriella Blumberg. L: Behind-the-scenes of Street Smart. R: Still from the short.

Quick-fire round with Gabriella Blumberg…

What drives your passion for filmmaking?

I grew up immersed in the joy of theatre and performing – I love the magic of the play. I am also passionate about bringing attention to social issues. Film has the power to highlight these topics through storytelling, and to become a catalyst for speaking about them.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for Alumni of the Year at the PIEoneer Awards?

It’s wonderful that MetFilm School is on the list of educational institutions that are pushing boundaries and working towards a more dynamic student experience. It is with great pride that I am nominated for Alumni of the Year, and especially for a Film School that both encourages my creative vision while studying, and continues to stay interested in my career.

Can you tell us a little about your most recent project, Leemtes en Leegheid?

Leemtes en Leegheid is a fictional short that I produced. It premiered at the Silwerkskerm Film Festival this March, and is a story of an elderly woman who numbs the pain of losing her husband by envisioning him beside her. It won Best Screenplay, Best Short Film, and Audience Choice at the festival. The film is a catalyst to speak about our personal grief and isolation, and I hope that these conversations can lead to continued healing.

Watch the trailer for I Am Here