Lily, 11, nets winner as film on gender tipped for award

Lily Graham, who stars in the film Take Your Partners. Photograph: Greg McVean
Lily Graham, who stars in the film Take Your Partners. Photograph: Greg McVean
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A short film starring an 11-year-old girl which shines a light on the subject of gender stereotypes has been nominated for a Scottish Bafta Award.

Lily Graham takes the lead role of Ollie in Take Your Partners, about a football-loving, eight-year-old who challenges gender expectations when forced to make an Easter bonnet with the girls.

The short film was made in 2015 and was written and directed by Siri Rødnes, who has since gone on to work on her first full-length feature – Nine Lives from the science fiction novelette by American author Ursula K. Le Guin.

Siri discovered Lily, a pupil at Parsons Green Primary School in Edinburgh, through her drama teacher Mori Christian – who runs an after- school club.

Lily then read the script with her parents who quickly realised it was the perfect role for their daughter and Rødnes said finding her was a “stroke of luck”.

Lily, who was nominated last year for a Bafta Scotland New Talent Award, said: “I first got into drama through an after-school club which was really fun – I went to drama club for three years.

“I liked playing different characters and found it really interesting. It was through my drama teacher, Mori Christian, that I got the part in Take Your Partners. “Filming was great, I loved it. I had never done it before so it was exciting and a great experience.

“I really like working with Siri and the producers, Stuart and Sarah. Siri was amazing to work with, she made it fun and was very easy to get on with.”

Lily added: “Siri also likes football so we had similar hobbies and it was nice to do something on my own without all my sisters.” Take Your Partners premiered earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival and has also been showcased at the BFI London Film Festival and festivals in Seattle and Barcelona.

Rødnes found it easy to work with the children, along with producers Stuart Condy and Sara Forbes from Arpeggio Pictures.

The 33-year-old from Edinburgh describes the film as being “semi-autobiographical” and touches on Rødnes’ own experiences as a football-mad pupil at Sciennes Primary then Boroughmuir High School.

She said: “I was aware of segregation between the sexes when I was at school but I think things have got a lot better and there’s things like teams for girls now.

“One of the biggest frustrations I always had growing up was there were never enough girls to get teams together and it reached the point where you just weren’t allowed to play with the boys anymore.

“There’s a lot going on at the moment around the issues of gender and equality.

“That’s one of the reasons why I think Take Your Partners has been so successful, it doesn’t deal with overt homophobia but it actually deals with gender discrimination and as soon as you start talking about that – you include pretty much everybody in that conversation, particularly women.”

Mother Isla Sinclair said: “When Lily’s drama teacher and Siri approached me with the script, it could have been written about Lily.

“She’s always been a tomboy and loves football and I just thought it was a lovely way to show her that people can be whoever they want to be and don’t have to conform to the stereotypes we have of boys and girls.

“The whole experience has been amazing for Lily, from doing the filming itself to going to the Berlinale, her Bafta New Talent nomination and just working with an amazing bunch of people.

“She has loved every minute of it and has had an experience of a lifetime.”

The Bafta Scotland Awards 2016 take place tonight at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow.