top of page

CIRCLE interviews: Meet Rachel Close, CIRCLE 2022 participant

Rachel Close currently lives in the northeast of England, where she spent the majority of her childhood with her adoptive parents. Rachel has directed documentaries selected for Sheffield Doc/Fest, East End Film Festival, and SEE documentary festival. Her personal experience of being both adopted as a baby and in the care system as a teenager inspired her to become a filmmaker, social worker, and therapist. Rachel studied TV production at Teesside University. Her films offer vivid and sensitive exploration of an array of topics including gender-based violence (Heal our Women), poverty tourism (Where are you coming from), exploitation through prostitution (Mind the Gap) and the music industry (No Regrets). Rachel often collaborates with her subjects to incorporate performative or choreographed scenes to reveal deeper subjective truths, illuminating the characters inner and outer world.

Q:  Please introduce yourself and your project briefly.


ONE OF US is a feature length documentary about one woman’s search for meaning and belonging. Director and subject, Rachel, embarks on a dynamic personal investigation with exploration of the deepest intimate issues such as identity, belonging and abandonment, against a historical background that has an uncanny echo in the tumultuous present relating to women’s sexual and reproductive rights. Forced to confront truths about her own adoption from one of  Ceaucescu’s ‘dungeons of neglect’, Rachel’s search evolves into a transformative personal reckoning after uncovering the truth about her own mother’s role in the traumatic fates that befell her and her sisters. 

Still from ONE OF US, directed by Rachel Close


Q:  What is your film about? What inspired you to start making it?

“I never knew anyone who looked like me. As a baby, I was adopted from Romania by a British couple, who saw a news report about terrible conditions for babies abandoned in orphanages. As a cross-cultural adoptee, I inhabit the in-between space, not quite belonging to either place or family. I went back to Romania for the first time in my late 20’s. I did not document this search or visit the orphanage,  I just yearned to find someone who looked like me- I focussed my search on finding my family, I found a brother, Alex and an Uncle Romeo, who told me that my parents passed away years ago. Less than a year later I received an unexpected email from a young woman called Mihaela in Canada, asking me to help her locate the orphanage from which we were adopted where we started our lives together, and maybe track down some family members. A possibility presented itself- while I was not able to meet my birth mum, maybe I could help her meet hers?! I accompanied Mihaela on her first and only trip back to Romania,  as a filmmaker and helper. Perhaps born from an urge to hide behind the camera or perhaps an effort to sublimate my own feelings of longing into someone else's search, the journey quickly evolves to a more complex personal reckoning than I could have ever imagined.

Q: How has this film challenged you as a filmmaker?

This process of making this film has been challenging from the outset. The film has pushed me to be braver, not only artistically but personally. I initially wanted to hide behind the camera, reluctant to step into the frame. I was so embarrassed by the idea of taking up the frame, it felt too self indulgent, but ultimately the process of making the film has been the greatest gift I have ever given to myself, and that’s ok! 

Q: How would you describe your approach to filmmaking?

I am trying to understand a subject and my relation to it so filmmaking is always a journey of personal exploration for me, but never more so than this film.  

Q: What made you apply for CIRCLE?

My producers (Manifest film, Romania) recommended that I apply to Circle.

Q:  Can you compare your experience at CIRCLE with other similar platforms that you have been part of?

Circle is the first and only workshop I have undertaken during the making of this film.

Q: How has participating in CIRCLE helped you and/or your project?

I found Circle extremely beneficial in writing the film as well as writing about the film. I have never directed a feature length documentary before and I greatly value the advice and guidance offered to me by the Circle mentors and the support offered by the community of female filmmakers who attended Circle. 

Q:  As a woman working in the industry, have you faced any barriers or issues related to your gender?

Thankfully I do not feel I have encountered any barriers in relation to my gender when making this film. I have greatly appreciated the input I have had from female mentors who have been really supportive in their efforts to champion the voices of new female filmmakers and talk with one another plainly about the challenges they have faced. 

Q:  What would you change in the way women are treated in the film industry?

I think the role of female mentorship is invaluable as well as female decision makers. Women are sometimes more reluctant to ask for (or insist upon) the conditions they need in order to make art. Granting permission for courageous conversations is essential- at an interpersonal level this could look like one experienced female filmmaker pulling aside their younger less experienced colleague and saying ‘hey you can ask for this/that’.  Stepping into not only the responsibility of film making but the power of it- this is something we need to talk about.

Q:  Which women directors have helped to shape your worldview and filmmaking approach? Why?

Some of my favourite contemporary female documentary makers include Sarah Polley, Kirsten Johnson, Kim Longinotto.

More broadly- I really enjoy brave, daring confessional story telling. Much of my inspiration in terms of storytelling and world view has come from the world of fiction- particularly women who write (as well as act) their own work. Women like Phoebe Waller Bridge, Sophie Wilian, Daisy May Cooper, Lena Dunham, and Sharon Horgan have all pushed the boundaries of what is ‘permissible’, not only for female characters but also female artists, their embrace has made me feel less alone in my own chaos, imperfection and womanhood. 

Q:  Do you have a favourite documentary film? Why is it one of your favorites?

I love film makers who use the very medium of film making as a means of catharsis or healing (for film maker, subjects or both) such as  Kirsten Johnson’s film Dick Johnson is Dead, Robert Greene’s Procession and Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell.


I also enjoy documentary films that play with the medium and blur the boundaries between fact and fiction in service of immersing us into the filmmaker's vision, such as; Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus (Andrew Douglas’s) or Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye) or The fear of 13 (David Sington).

Other favourites that follow the verite tradition include Orania (Tobias Lindner), Hulls Angel (Sean McAllister), The lift (Mark Issac), Dreamcatcher (Kim Longintto), Meanwhile in Mamelodi (Benjamin Kahlmeyer). Sons of Perdition (Tyler Measom, Jennilyn Merten). 


Q:  What is the most important thing for you as a spectator? What do you search/expect to find in films?

Authenticity, playfulness and beauty. I am also very aware of affording each subject the dignity we would want for ourselves!  Being the subject of your own film really heightens your awareness of this as a filmmaker. When we are pointing our camera at others we must remember this as part of our responsibility as filmmakers- it’s the very least we can do.

Q:  What advice do you have for other filmmakers?

Build a network of people you trust. Bring people in who will nourish not only the project but your own creative process. Try to be clear about your terms from the outset and if you are not sure, build some flexibility into your working contracts with people. Attend workshops (like Circle!!), but be careful to limit the circle of people you share with in the early stages- death by committee can be a pitfall for us less experienced film makers.  

150 views0 comments


bottom of page