Ella Donald is a freelance writer and journalism and French student from Brisbane. She grew up dancing and loving musicals, writing about fashion (including co-owning the website FashionOfGlee.com), playing a lot of instruments, watching too many films, and making sure had memorised every episode of The Simpsons.
In primary school she made her first foray into criticism, reviewing films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and talking about the life of Audrey Hepburn for show-and-tell. She even did an hour-and-a-half-long presentation on the history of animated movies (she’s always been a bit passionate).
These days she tries to write more about films than talk about them lest she drive her family and friends insane. She has written for a variety of publications, including her own blog, SBS Sexuality, 4:3, This is Film, bMag, and An Online Universe. When she’s not trying to write about the never-ending list of things she’d like to, waiting for the new seasons of Sense8 or Call the Midwife, or exhibiting a particularly intense obsession with the films of Jean-Marc Vallee.
She enjoys ballet, calling out bad French in English language films, and arguing about Awards Season. She has seen Carol twelve times.
City I call home: Brisbane
Twitter handle: @_pingus
Facebook page: facebook.com/monumentalpics
Type of cinema I am most passionate about:
It’s difficult to restrict it to one genre. I adore everything from musicals to drama to science fiction, and recently I’m even getting into horror films. I like films that are passionate and daring, I guess. This doesn’t mean I don’t like cynical films - cynicism is good, but it shouldn’t be so toxic is eats away the rest of the film. I don’t like films who are anonymous, and feel like they could have been made by anyone. My favourite directors are probably Todd Haynes, Jean-Marc Vallee, and Sarah Polley, all of whom have extremely unique voices that are constantly evolving and revealing new ways for me to enjoy their work. Their films are a joy to watch.
A film that changed me/my mind is:
At this point I feel like most of my life has been lived through films, but a couple always stick out. Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch is what got me into film criticism – granted, I haven’t watched it since, so my opinion of it may have changed drastically, but I remember seeing it and reading the reviews and completely disagreeing with them. I thought it was interesting and imaginative, and I had a lot of fun saying why I thought it was better than everyone had said it was. It was the first time, I guess, where I realised there could be a place for so many competing reactions to one piece of work.
I’m looking forward to Critics Campus because:
I’m excited to meet people who are passionate about the same thing that I am, having some wonderful discussions about films, and learning how to keep becoming a more interesting writer!
Cinema excites me because:
It has an ability to encompass so many different disciplines and mediums and discussions and present something that is emotive and personal. Every film is different, and every reaction to a film is different, influenced by the viewer’s thoughts and experience.
Favourite Critic and why:
I have two favourites - Wesley Morris (The New York Times, previously Grantland) and Alex Heeney (The Seventh Row). Mr. Morris is able to communicate a sense of atmosphere; he's able to communicate what makes cinema such a unique and exciting experience. Ms. Heeney is always looking for new ways to look at cinema, whether it's through science or theatre or dance. I’ve got so many interests outside cinema, and I’ve written about everything from fashion to dance to language and everything in between. I like criticism that uses different lenses, even the personal, to look at film.
The future of film criticism is:
Something that continues to explore the expansive possibilities of what film criticism means, utilising new mediums and voices to tell interesting stories in itself, and going outside what is currently accepted in mainstream and niche media.
Film criticism is important because:
Film criticism is the realisation of what I love about cinema - its subjectivity, ability to start a conversation, the never-ending discoveries to be made. It's a sense of wonder, of constant fascination, and ongoing conversation. It can be explored from many different angles, and everyone's take on the same piece of work differs greatly. Nothing is ever concrete, an interpretation is never definitive. The same piece of work can mean very different things over the course of a life. It’s a place for distinctive voices, ones that convey a sense of joy and love of the discovery of cinema. I aspire to go beyond the conventional, just evaluating film through its technical surface, indistinguishable from the mass. Rather, I want to look at everything that interlinks with cinema - whether that be politics, dance, or the idea of identity itself.
The MIFF film I’m most looking forward to: