Pietra Brettkelly and the story behind Rihanna’s Met dress

By MiNDFOOD

Singer Rihanna arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of "China: Through the Looking Glass" in Manhattan, New York May 4, 2015.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Singer Rihanna arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala 2015 celebrating the opening of "China: Through the Looking Glass" in Manhattan, New York May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

MiNDFOOD’s special September Sufferage issue highlights women doing remarkable things in New Zealand. One such woman is multi award-winning documentary film-maker, Pietra Brettkelly. Her work has taken her all over the world, from Libya to Sudan, Afghanistan and now China for her latest film Yellow is Forbidden, recently premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

“Isn’t it wonderful being an outsider,” Brettkelly says as she discusses her approach to filmmaking and her latest offering that sees her trail a Chinese designer, Guo Pei, for two years as she seeks to open Chinese art and design up to the world. “I go out and examine other people’s worlds, I asked naive questions, and hopefully the answers are just as interesting to my audience as they are to me. That’s why it’s important for me to do films outside of what I know, and what I’m familiar with,” she explains.

After Gou burst on to the international scene when Rihanna wore her extravagant hand-embroidered yellow gown to the 2015 Met Gala, Brettkelly knew that she wanted to tell Gou’s story of discovery. “I got on the phone after tracking down a number to where she worked, but because of the language barrier, it took quite a few attempts for me to reach her. After much convincing, I got on a plane for China and immersed myself in her world.”

Yellow Is Forbidden, films Guo in her home in Shanghai, and follows her to Paris and on trips to Switzerland, Italy, and America. Brettkelly unravels the sheltered designer, and what motivates her work.

Suffrage 125

Reflecting on 125 years of the Sufferage movement, Brettkelly says, “I’m an incredibly positive person and I think there’s always hope and incredibly exciting things happening for women in New Zealand and within the industry, and I think that women’s rights have come a long way – I can jump on a plane and go just about anywhere to make a film.”

Get a copy of the September issue of MiNDFOOD New Zealand to read Pietra Brettkelly’s inspirational story.

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