Filmmaker Profile: Ella Glendining at Sundance!

Ella Glendining is a local Writer/Director dedicated to telling authentic disabled stories. Her first feature film, Is There Anybody Out There? premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2023 as part of the World Cinema Documentary competition. We interviewed Ella before she went off to Sundance and you can find our initial chat here!

Ella, we chatted a few weeks ago, just before you were about to jet set to Utah, USA, with your wonderful documentary Is There Anybody Out There? So… how was it?
It was a wild ride and totally feels like a dream. I had never seen landscape like the snowy mountains there, it was spectacular! There was A LOT of snow, and many of the houses / condos were log cabins, so it was a proper winter wonderland. My schedule was quite intense as I had the premiere and several other screenings, as well as Q&As, interviews and a couple of photoshoots. But I watched other films screening at the festival whenever I got the chance, and saw some really brilliant and inspiring work.

What was the best thing about your trip?
Having to throw myself into public speaking is something I’m glad I did, because historically it is a fear of mine, and I feel proud of myself for tackling that. I also met up with some disabled documentary filmmakers from FWD-Doc, which was a real highlight for me, and we had some profound chats.

And the worst?
Probably just struggling with the inaccessibility of the city, partly due to the snow.

What feedback did you get from people who watched Is There Anybody Out There?
It was absolutely amazing, particularly after the second screening. The premiere was a bit of a blur. A lot of disabled people attended the second screening, including some fellow disabled filmmakers I admire. And everyone just TOTALLY got it. There were many tears and much laughter, and great chats afterwards. Knowing that my film resonates with the disabled community so deeply is a dream come true. I am so relieved!

And what about reviews?
Most of the reviews were really great, though I found a couple quite ableist, though that’s to be expected. I was thrilled with my Screen Daily review particularly, which compared IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? to CRIP CAMP – I mean, what a compliment!

How do you feel attitudes towards ableism fare in the States, compared to the UK?
I think it’s slightly worse in the States, which is something I discovered when I visited while shooting the doc. They’re so image-focused, it is very sad.

Sundance is a big deal. What differences did you notice between this festival and others you’ve attended?
More fancy parties / brunches!

Any films from Sundance you’d particularly recommend?
THE TUBA THIEVES by my genius friend Alison O’Daniel and SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD. Both mind-blowingly awesome in different ways.

Since Sundance, you’ve had a couple of other pretty big festival selections!
Yes! Just in March the film will screen at SXSW in Austin, Texas, which I won’t be attending personally but some of the cast will be, Thessaloniki, which I’ll be heading to, FIFDH, which is a human rights film festival in Geneva, and CPH:DOX, which I am very much looking forward to.

You can follow Ella on Instagram, @ella_bee_g

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