Athena Skates is a sun-drenched documentary that follows a group of young female roller skaters

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For Elliott Gonzo, a British film director based in London, storytelling is something that arrived habitually. It was while watching Delicatessen, a film by French director Jean Pierre Jeunet – a “dark and twisted, hyperreal comedy about a cannibalistic butcher and landlord in a post-apocalyptic France” – that he as initially inspired to professionally pursue the medium of filmmaking. “After watching Delicatessen,” he tells It’s Nice That, “I was obsessed with the idea of making my own imaginary worlds come to life; I taught myself to lucid dream in order to help me design perfect worlds within my dreams.”

After employing this method for ensuing his own complex narratives, Elliott went on to study production design at University of the Arts Bournemouth. Here, he was able to develop his understanding of film and started to appreciate the art of the filmmaking process. As such he directed his debut short, titled Sour Milk, that premiered in his final year of university. The film won various awards and was shown at a number of festivals; he describes this as the moment the “filmmaking bug” really took hold.

Post-university is when Elliott bought his first camera, some lenses and a career-defining ticket to India. “This is where I started to realise that the world we live in is full of amazing and interesting subjects and characters,” he explains of the moment he first traversed to the country – the result of which was a documentary on a Tibetan refugee, ‘The Lion Man’, who had escaped Tibet “holding the hand of the Dalai Lama” and had made a new home for himself in Dharamshala, India. “A couple of years later,” he continues, “me and a few friends including Mark Leaver, an amazing photographer, decided to travel to India together.” With multiple cameras in tow in preparation for stumbling across anything visually interesting, that’s when his first feature-length documentary, Tight, arose an account of a group of Indian bodybuilders from Tamil Nadu, which is currently in the late stages of post-production.

It was during the end process of the film that a collaboration emerged between journalist and producer, Alex King, as well as his university friend and the “best editor” he knows, Dom Mayer. Months of incredible team work on Tight urged the group to form a documentary production company, Hijra Collective. “Creatively, we’re all very much on the same page,” continues Elliott. “We all love to travel and explore the lives that are really different to ours.” So much so that their first commission sees a newly premiered documentary, called Athena Skates, brought into fruition after hearing of Red Bull Storytellers – a talent development programme for emerging filmmakers themed on “here comes the sun”.

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