Sonali Fernando is a film and television director, producer and writer based in the UK. She has produced and directed twenty-six high-end films for the BBC and Channel 4, among them history series, one-off docudramas, contemporary arts documentaries and independent films, on themes ranging from the new face of imperialism to the hidden face of voyeurism. Acclaimed in the press for her dynamic storytelling, visual flair and originality, she has directed crews large and small on shoots in seventeen countries, including India, Egypt, Turkey and Mexico, winning six international awards for her films.
Sonali’s work includes NINE DAYS THAT SHOOK LONDON, a 75 minute documentary for BBC2 about the stage management and spin rife in the extraordinary week that encompassed Live 8, Make Poverty History, the G8 summit, the London Bombings and National Commemoration Day ("An excellent film - gripping, moving, stylish and provocative - exactly what the BBC should be doing" Alan Hayling, Head of Documentaries, BBC); INDIA CALLING (C4), a tragicomic 60’ observational documentary that brought the neo-colonial world of Indian call centres to the attention of a British audience for the first time (‘A brilliant documentary...It’s staggering stuff, full of economic hard truths, humour and wonderful characters’ - Sunday Telegraph. ‘A fascinating, beautifully-made film... an eye-opening piece of work’ - Mail Weekend); and MARY SEACOLE - THE REAL ANGEL OF THE CRIMEA (C4), an hour-long drama-documentary about the Nineteenth Century Jamaican doctress Mary Seacole (a contemporary of Florence Nightingale’s), which brought record numbers of viewers to its primetime Sunday evening slot (‘This film reconstructs Seacole’s life with flair and aplomb. A treat - Time Out). She was Series Director of a six-hour flagship series on the history of archaeology, GREAT EXCAVATIONS, for Channel 4 (screened round the world on National Geographic Television as LOST WORLDS). Also for Channel 4, Sonali directed the experimental drama THE BODY OF A POET in Los Angeles, winning Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Imagginaria Festival, Bologna, an Audience Award for Outstanding Short Film in LA, a Jury Experimental Award at the Prized Pieces Festival, Berkely, and a place at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) UK Biennial 1997 as ‘one of the notable films of the past two years’.
Prior to television programme-making, Sonali worked in a leadership capacity in the not-for-profit sector: as Development Manager of the educational charity WAVES (Women’s Audio Visual Education Scheme) for three years, where she raised substantial sums for training and equipment; as Director of Cinematrix, the First London International Women’s Film Festival; and as International News Coordinator for the campaigning Media Workers Against the War website (mwaw.net) in 2001-2. She spent three years as a Contributing Editor of Bazaar, a pioneering London-based arts magazine, and has written articles and essays on culture for a wide range of magazines, journals and galleries in the UK, US and Canada. She has taught filmmaking to young adults at Tulana, a multi-faith centre in Sri Lanka, coached people from a variety of disciplines to communicate on camera, and coordinated large teams of volunteers for festival events.
She studied at St Paul’s Girls’ School in London, where she founded and edited the school newspaper, Phoenix, and has an honours degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford. Sonali is currently writing a book for Guardian Books, the publishing arm of The Guardian newspaper, on the revolution in intimacy triggered by online dating - which one in every two single British adults has now experienced.
Her work is characterised by a resourceful, entrepreneurial, outside-the-box approach to creative problems. She likes using leftfield strategies to make people think again - surprising imagery, startling juxtapositions and humour where it’s least expected. (9/09)
The Body of a Poet
A film by Sonali Fernando, 1995, 29 min., Color
An imaginary biopic, THE BODY OF A POET centers on the efforts of a group of young lesbians of color to devise a fitting tribute to one of this centu...