Pietra Brettkelly

Yellow is Forbidden

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I've made over 50 documentary films.  But this one, Yellow is Forbidden has caught and held me.  Now I need your help to finish this beautiful film - and you can get a third of your donation back!

Givenchy, Lagerfeld, Chanel, Dior, Gaultier…. perhaps the most exclusive club in the world.  Mostly men.  Mostly European.  Mostly from auspicious backgrounds.

And then there's Guo Pei, the subject of my film.

China's only haute couture designer, Guo Pei was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2016.

A profound story of survival and creativity.  A blind mother, a military father, communism and the Cultural Revolution. 

From a life of uniforms to dressing Rihanna in a 27kg dress - deliberately heavy and cumbersome to show the strength of women - it has not come easy for Guo Pei. 

This is her story.  An inspiration to every person who dreamed a truly impossible dream.


I got off the couch….

When Rihanna claimed the Met Gala 2015 red carpet with Guo Pei's yellow cape, as a storyteller I was intrigued to uncover the creative force who 'invents' a 27kg dress.  I wanted to know who is this woman who didn't know of Rihanna. 

And amongst the China internationally known for plastic toys and knock-offs, how did this unique talent develop?

So I got off the couch, called Guo Pei and three days later Director of Photography Jake Bryant and I arrived at her Beijing studio.  She wasn't expecting Jake, just a meeting with me.  But within an hour we were filming and 12 blocks of filming in six countries over two years later, we have gathered some 250 hours of exclusive footage.


YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN is a modern day Cinderella story where the brave, diminutive and daring heroine's dream doesn't end at the ball…  Guo Pei is chasing every designer's fantasy - to become part of the exclusive yet savage world of Haute Couture.

It's an unprecedented story, taking the viewer inside the world where Guo Pei creates magic…

A 50kg dress so heavy Guo Pei has to consider a gymnast not a model to walk the runway…. A gown spun by 300 embroiderers… Precious gold material printed with centuries-old Swiss fresco…

All from a woman who learnt her craft at Number 2 Light Industrial School after the reign of Mao Tse Tung and is now launching internationally at Paris Haute Couture Fashion week.


YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN has been an extraordinary film to shoot and edit.  As with any creative venture, there must be difficulty - ha! 

I've raised nearly half the budget, now we need your help to finish the film, to cover the fine cut of the film, the composer, archive, colour grade, sound mix and deferred fees

Join us today. I thank you for your support. You won't be disappointed. 

And the great thing about Boosted is that NZ donors can claim 33% back on their tax return. So if you give $100 you can claim $33 back!

I'm needing more than $20,000 but am truly grateful for anything.  Boosted is an all-or-nothing platform meaning that if I don't reach the target of $20,000 in 30 days your donation will be refunded.

My overseas friends, Boosted is in New Zealand dollars - $1NZ equates to about .75US cents.  But if you would like to donate US$1000 or more let me know as there is a similar US charitable organisation that operates for such donations.


There's a saying in feature documentary circles - if 100 people make one film, only 50 will make a second, 5 will make a third and no-one will make a fourth, it's just too jolly hard.  But this is my fifth documentary and each time I seem to have convinced DOP Jake Bryant that venturing into the unknown, sometimes warzones, often in cultures, languages and religions not our own, is part of the adventure of film-making.   And our belief remains strong these films provide a window into another world that can only foster appreciation, understanding, empathy across borders.

That belief in the power of story telling has paid off.  Rare in filmmaking circles, my films have premiered in four of the world's five top film festivals - Sundance (winning an award), Berlin, Toronto and Venice Film Festivals.

And my most recent film A FLICKERING TRUTH was the New Zealand entrant for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars.

It's a tight group of extraordinary talent that have been sucked along on my journey too - Nicolas Chaudeurge, Margot Francis, Cushla Dillon, Ken Sparks, Chia Chi Hsu in the editing suite, composer Tom Third, shadow puppet artist Annie Katsura Rollins, sound designer Dick Reade, the wonderful team at Park Road Post including Clare Burlinson, editorial advisors and mentors Joanna Paul and Molly Malene Stensgaard, fellow producer Naomi Wallwork... and 32 translators in six countries.

Check out my other work www.pietrabrettkelly.com


All donors will be offered a credit of thanks in the film's end credits.  And I'll keep you posted on the film's completion and release.  I know you will be as proud of this film as I am.

Filmmaking is a humbling experience - from the people who agree for me to tell their real life stories, right through to you all who are prepared to hear my plea and respond with support and love.  If you could even share this page with your networks that'd be wonderful in helping me spread the word.


  • Oscars' Best Foreign Language selection


    So this just happened... my film Yellow is Forbidden has been selected as New Zealand's Best Foreign Language film for the Oscars. Very chuffed - thanks to all you wonderful people!

    This is my second film to have received this recognition and truly acknowledges all those wonderful people who throw their love and talents into my filmic whims... xx


    Oscars' Best Foreign Language selection
  • Auckland tickets on sale now!


    Ata marie.  Those of you in Auckland will now be able to see this beautiful film - NZ International Film Festival tickets on sale now with Wellington announced on July 9 and other centres to follow.  Please share and help me fill the Civic!  And thank you again...x https://www.nziff.co.nz/2018/film/yellow-is-forbidden/


  • The award-nominated trailer and fabulous reveiws...


    ..... oh and I meant to add here is the link to the film's facebook page where I'm putting all fabulous reviews (whew!), artciles and informationa about future screenings.  https://www.facebook.com/yellowisforbidden

    “Yellow is Forbidden is an intimate, involving portrait..” The Hollywood Reporter

    "Pietra Brettkelly's visually stunning new documentary… mesmerising” Vogue

    “..a fascinating close-up…” Film Journal


    And here's the trailer. 





    The award-nominated trailer and fabulous reveiws...
  • On the road, on the beach....


    En route to my film’s last screening at Tribeca Film Festival in New York I walked through the spring of Central Park. And a little boy came to show me the mosquito he’d caught, in a jar, that he was feeding a tulip flower. I asked him to take my photo with the blossoms. And while his skills being able to capture alive other species is questionable, I think the kid has a certain appreciation of chiaroscuro as you see in the photo attached….

    And now in the beauty of home, an autumn swim and distilling the last month of YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN’s world premier, then Hotdocs Documentary Film Festival Toronto, my genre home and then to the inspirational and crazy Cannes Film Festival.

    It has been magical and I thank you all truly for your enthusiasm for my film, your kindness to me and your dedication to helping me continue in this extraordinary filmic life.


    On the road, on the beach....
  • Woohoo - World Premier Tribeca Film Festival, New York


    I am excited to announce that Yellow is Forbidden will premier In Competiton AND Opening Weekend at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York next month.  If any of you feel like an excuse to come to New York - shout!  I couldn't have done it without you... thank you so much.  And I'll keep you posted as there'll be more festivals closer to you to come!  xx

    You can also follow YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN
    Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/yellowisforbidden
    Twitter:  @pietrabk
    Instagram:  @pietrabk

    Woohoo - World Premier Tribeca Film Festival, New York
  • Guo Pei, Clare and I in the grade....


    We're in the final stages, making Jake Bryant's beautiful cinematography really sing.  I'm now at Park Road Post in Wellington doing the grade with lovely Clare Burlinson, and it so exciting to think the film is nearly done.  And you'll nearly get to see it!  x

    Guo Pei, Clare and I in the grade....
  • The Guardian


    Good morming to you all.  I didn't know about this article but its great timing as I prepare to begin the grade with the lovely Clare Burlinson at Park Road Post down in Wellington.  I'll be rattling down the island on my birthday, not looking a day older when I start with Clare next Tuesday.  You guys have gotten me there - thank you!  https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/oct/18/guo-pei-chinese-designer-who-made-rihanna-omelette-dress

    The Guardian


    On a beautiful sunny spring day, we more than popped over the goal line! Its been such an incredibly encouraging, humbling, emotional journey. Thank you all so much.

    And so onwards I go and the extra money raised until the close of the campaign this Saturday, will help immensely towards those completion costs that go beyond $20,000 but that is certainly a wonderful dent!

    Please do let me know if you'd like the links to my previous films as a thank you from me.

    And if you do hear of anyone who wants to support my film, this campaign is still open till Saturday.

    I'll keep you posted through these updates of the release of the film and we can all celebrate together. Hurrah!

    Here's my cinematographer Jake and I with Guo Pei and her family... just wish the balloon was a little bit lower to cover the whole face!

  • ONLY 8 DAYS LEFT! 85% THERE....


    From Mexico to London, from India to New York, and throughout New Zealand your generosity is humbling and has meant we're 85% there!  Now I need your help to share the link, and please appeal to your networks for the final push.

    Boosted is an all-or-nothing so I have to reach 100%.  And I know we can do it.

    The financial response you've all given me has encoruaged me onwards, and the music I've commissioned has been coming in and its gorgeous.  I know you'll love it too.

    As a thank you to you all, if any of you haven't seen my other work, please let me know and I'll send you an online link.

    YOU BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, THANK YOU.  The conversation that I never bore of, talking filmmaking with Verity Mackintosh, Beijing.....




    ONLY 8 DAYS LEFT!  85% THERE....


    With just two weeks left, we're two thirds of the way to the goal! Your kindness, generosity and belief is extraordinary. Please help me in the final push, share this link if you can… and remember NZ DONORS CAN GET A THIRD OF YOUR DONATION BACK!

    To hear more about the film listen to the Radio NZ interview with Wallace Chapman who watched a rough cut of the film and told me "Don't change a thing!"


    Its hard for any of us to say "I need your help" but it is so encouraging and humbling to read the responses so far:

    "Anything that Pietra sets her eyes on is a heart opening work of art. I'll be very thankful if I can be a little part of this documentary."

    "Always a privilege to be part of your work."

    "He pakipūmeka rangatira tēnei !"

    "Hi Pietra Wow this film sounds amazing!! Can't wait to see it and well done on making great docs the world wants to see. Good luck on raising rest of the $$ you require."



    WOW!  So excited that thanks to the generosity of you, my amazing donors, we reached 30% of the target in just six days!

    And I just received this from an international mentor who I got to watch the film for feedback:

    "I watched the film and it is stunning. I loved it - especially, the look back at the history of couture, your take on the new China, the references to the Cultural Revolution. It's also nice to see a film about fashion that doesn't rely solely on the hackneyed buildup to the runway show. It is such a thought-provoking and insightful work, tackling deep questions regarding contemporary global power dynamics, the positioning of gender issues in this minefield, and the opposition between art and commerce (plus very personal, individual touches) in a seamless and subtle way."

    Yippeeee... and please continue to share the link with your networks as Boosted is an all-or-nothing campaign.  Thank you!