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2017 Winners

Select a category from the quick links below to find out more.

Best Research Film of the Year
Doctoral Award or Early Career Film
The International Development Award
Innovation Award
Inspiration Award

See also our image gallery from the award ceremony.


Best Research Film of the Year

This category recognises the best film produced by a researcher or research team in the last year which showcases the value of arts and humanities research.

The Judges:

  • Joanna Callaghan (University of Sussex)
  • Professor Andrew Chitty (AHRC Creative Economy Champion)
  • Anthony Lilley OBE (CEO, Magic Lantern Productions)

Winning film by Dr Beth Singler, University of Cambridge

Pain in the Machine started with a deceptively simple question: could, and should, robots feel pain? This short documentary explores this question in a publicly accessible way. It invokes popular culture references – such as the Terminator films, The Simpsons, and Wall-E – alongside the voices of experts in the fields of pain, robotics, ethics, social anthropology, cognitive science, and moral philosophy. The academic moments in the documentary are framed by the story of one woman and ‘Harry’, her anthropomorphised Roomba, a type of robot vacuum cleaner.

Winner’s Interview

Read the interview with Beth and her team following their win at the Research in Film Awards.

The judges said: “Really excellent timely film with an accessible but provocative line on sentience by pursuing the issue of pain.”

The Shortlist

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Doctoral Award or Early Career Film

This Award celebrates the best films made by arts and humanities researchers at the start of their academic careers.

The Judges:

  • Matthew Reisz (Times Higher Education)
  • Professor  Rajinder Dudrah (University of Birmingham)
  • Professor Lucy Mazdon (University of Southampton)

Winning film by Sarah Butler, Open University

Unearthing Elephant is a film about the Elephant and Castle shopping centre that mixes personal and documentary approaches to create a portrait of a building destined for demolition. Although many people say the centre was a failure from the day it opened, it has nonetheless fostered many small immigrant businesses as well as a genuine sense of community. The film offers a timely and important insight into the everyday realities of a much-maligned - but also much-loved building - and walks the line between art, research and advocacy.

Winner’s Interview:

Read the interview with filmmaker, Eva Sajovic, who was part of the winning team behind Unearthing Elephant along with Sarah Butler, Shona Hamilton and Rebecca Davies.

The judges said: “A very strong and touching documentary, incorporating a range of personal testimonies and more analytical voices which build up into a strong political argument.”

The Shortlist:

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The International Development Award: Mobilising Global Voices

The special themed category for 2017 was designed to help showcase and enhance public knowledge around some of the issues in developing countries. The entries gave people in developing countries a voice, using film to tell their story.

The Judges:

  • Professor Tom Inns (Glasgow School of Art)
  • Richard Davidson-Houston (Head of All 4, Channel Four Television)
  • Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Former Director of the BFI)

Winning film by Dr Joanne Catherine Jordan (University of Manchester) and Ehsan Kabir (Green Ink)

The Lived Experience of Climate Change: A Story of One Piece of Land in Dhaka examines the way global warming affects the lives of slum dwellers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Based on extensive first-hand conversations with over 600 people, the film challenges pre-existing notions of how disadvantaged and vulnerable people experience and deal with climate change; resulting in an interactive theatre performance known as a Pot Gan. It was found that over 80% had learned something new about climate change as a result of the performances.

Winner’s Interview:

Read the interview with Dr Joanne Jordan about the impact of winning the International Development Award.

The judges said:  “This is a very professionally made film which is highly innovative in its use of theatre and particularly a local theatrical form to raise issues around climate change.”

The Shortlist:

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Innovation Award

The Innovation Award celebrates films that have pushed the boundaries of filmmaking using new techniques and research methodologies.

The Judges:

  • Professor Mark Jancovich (University of East Anglia)
  • Steve Evanson (TV Producer)
  • Katherine Cooper (University of East Anglia)

Winning film by Iris Zaki, Royal Holloway, University of London

The Shampoo Summit explores subjectivity, community representation, performance and power relations through long conversations about Israeli history, politics, life and love, in an Arab-owned hair salon in Haifa, Israel, where both Jewish and Arab women convene inside peacefully. It uses the ‘Abandoned Camera’ technique, where a fixed, unmanned camera is used to reduce the awkwardness of the subjects and encourage them to be more open and talk freely.

Winner’s Interview:

Read the interview with Iris Zaki who talks about her distinctive filmmaking style which she developed while studying for her Master’s degree.

The judges said: “A beautiful film. Technically strong, imaginative, touching and conveys research to powerful effect.”

The Shortlist:

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Inspiration Award

The only category open to members of the public. The Inspiration Award is dedicated to showcasing the best research which has been inspired by arts and humanities research.

The Judges:

  • Danny Leigh (Writer, broadcaster and presenter)
  • Jan Dalley (Arts Editor of the Financial Times)
  • Lindsay Mackie (Co-founder of Film Club)

Winning film by Kate Baxter and Elizabeth Dixon

Whirlpool from Five Fifty Five Productions, is a short film about Helen Keller, the 20th century deaf and blind American committed to social change. Prior cinematic depictions of Helen Keller place her as a secondary character, possibly due to the difficulty of depicting a deaf and blind protagonist. But Whirlpool seeks to correct this by placing Helen at the centre of the film and directly exploring her relationships with those closest to her at a formative time.

Winner’s Interview:

Find out more about the inspiration behind this short drama from the co-directors Kate Baxter and Elizabeth Dixon in this interview.

The judges said: “This was an exceptional short film that adopts Arts and Humanities methods and attempts to portray not only a factual/historical encounter but also engages the audience in Helen Keller’s experience.”

The Shortlist:

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Research In Film Awards 2017 - Image Gallery

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