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Hibbin, Sally (1953-)

Producer, Executive Producer

Main image of Hibbin, Sally (1953-)

As a producer, Sally Hibbin was responsible for nurturing Ken Loach's resuscitated feature film career in the early 1990s, but in a 30-year career she has also produced many distinguished British independent films and some outstanding television, most of it characterised by a strong commitment to leftwing and socially progressive causes.

She was born in north London on 3 July 1953, the daughter of Nina Hibbin, the avowedly communist film critic for the Daily Worker (later the Morning Star). Sally, too, started as a journalist, but turned to film when she founded Parallax Pictures in 1981, one of many independent production companies established to exploit commissioning opportunities from the nascent Channel 4. The name Parallax - meaning the displacement in the apparent position of an object when regarded from two different viewpoints - encapsulated Hibbin's desire to present alternatives to official versions of events.

Her first productions were campaigning films on behalf of the TUC (Live a Life, 1983), CND (Cruise, 1984), the Greater London Council (Policing London, Say No to No Say, both 1984; Hot News, 1986) and others that fitted her description of "organisations whose promotional material was all very worthy, but didn't have good production values". However, the GLC's abolition in 1986 deprived Parallax of a reliable income stream, and forced a change of direction.

Produced with Skreba Films, A Very British Coup (Channel 4, 1988) was substantially more ambitious. This three-part dramatisation of MP Chris Mullin's novel imagining Britain under a genuinely socialist Labour government not only won a BAFTA and an International Emmy but became one of the most talked-about TV dramas of its year.

A lengthy partnership with Ken Loach followed, marking a pivotal period in the director's career. Originally intended for Channel 4, Riff-Raff (1991) won the Critics' Award at Cannes and the inaugural Felix for Best European Film. This unexpectedly high international profile for a low-budget London building-site drama gave Parallax sufficient clout to start developing multiple features, often with pan-European funding, with Hibbin as either producer or executive producer. Alongside her work with Loach on Raining Stones (1993), Ladybird Ladybird (1994), Land and Freedom (1995) and Carla's Song (1996), she also developed the feature film careers of television director Les Blair (Bad Behaviour, 1993; Stand and Deliver, 1997) and the actor Philip Davis (i.d., 1994; Hold Back the Night, 1998).

She kept in touch with Parallax's roots by producing drama-documentaries inspired by then-recent events: Jimmy McGovern's Dockers (Channel 4, tx. 11/7/1999) looked at the mid-1990s Liverpool dock strike, while Blind Flight (d. John Furse, 2003) enacted the experience of Lebanon hostages Brian Keenan and John McCarthy. Yasmin (d. Kenny Glenaan, 2004) was fiction, but its story of the radicalisation of a young Muslim woman following reactions to the September 11 terrorist attacks could hardly have been more topical.

Very active in film education (she is senior tutor in production at the National Film and Television School), Hibbin maintains has a parallel career as a film writer, and is - perhaps surprisingly - a noted authority on the James Bond and Carry On film franchises.

Michael Brooke

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Carla's Song (1996)Carla's Song (1996)

Glaswegian-Nicaraguan love story about an idealistic bus driver

Thumbnail image of Ladybird Ladybird (1994)Ladybird Ladybird (1994)

Heartbreaking drama of a mother's struggle to keep her children

Thumbnail image of Land and Freedom (1995)Land and Freedom (1995)

Passionate tale of British volunteers fighting the Spanish Civil War

Thumbnail image of Raining Stones (1993)Raining Stones (1993)

Jobless Bob struggles to buy a communion dress for his daughter

Thumbnail image of Riff-Raff (1991)Riff-Raff (1991)

Ken Loach tragicomedy set on a London building site

Thumbnail image of Very British Coup, A (1988)Very British Coup, A (1988)

A radical Labour government provokes the wrath of the Establishment

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