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The Research in Film Awards 2020 shortlist

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is delighted to announce the shortlist for the Research in Film Awards 2020, which remains the only film awards dedicated to celebrating and recognising arts and humanities research through film.

We received hundreds of entries this year, and our prestigious judging panel has whittled them down to just a handful. The films on the shortlist below represent the best films made during the course of, as result of, or that are inspired by arts and humanities research. Many them are available to watch in full online right now, including short clips and trailers – we hope you enjoy them. We will be announcing this year’s winners in a special online-online awards ceremony on 11 November 2020.

Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist!

Best Research Film

This award is for the very best film made as an output or by-product of arts and humanities research. It will be interesting, technically impressive, bring new research to wider attention, and highlight the value and importance of arts and humanities research.

A Short Film About Ice, by Adam Laity (University of the West of England) is a visually dramatic film-poem that documents the journey of a cinematographer through the changing landscapes of the Arctic, exploring and re-conceptualising notions of the sublime in light of ecological crises and climate breakdown. This film is also nominated for the Best Climate Emergency Film, Best Doctoral or Early Career Film and Inspiration Award categories.

Blowback: the 9/11 Wars in Global Film, by Dr Terence McSweeney (Solent University) and George Lee delves into the cinematic representations of the 9/11 conflicts, exploring how these wars were viewed and told by other cultures outside of the United States.

How much should we pay artists for listening to their music? by Matt Brennan (University of Glasgow) and Graeme O’Hara contributes to the debate surrounding the payment of musicians, using infographics to explore the fate of recorded music over time. 

Mãos à Carne by Dr Alexander Trautrims (University of Nottingham) tackles the state of modern slavery in Brazil where an estimated 369,000 people are believed to live in slavery today.

Shelter without Shelter, also nominated for the Best Doctoral or Early Career Film category and created by Dr Tom Scott-Smith (University of Oxford) and Mark Breeze, tells the story of what it was like for the refugees and humanitarian workers who lived and worked inside Berlin’s large-scale emergency shelters following the 2015 ‘summer of migration’.

Best Doctoral or Early Career Film

This award is for the best film made by doctoral students and early career researchers who are funded by the AHRC. Just like the Best Research Film of the Year award, it will be interesting, technically impressive, bring new research to wider attention, and highlight the value and importance of arts and humanities research.

A Short Film About Ice, by Adam Laity (University of the West of England) is a visually dramatic film-poem that documents the journey of a cinematographer through the changing landscapes of the Arctic, exploring and re-conceptualising notions of the sublime in light of ecological crises and climate breakdown. This film is also nominated for the Best Research Film, Best Climate Emergency Film and Inspiration Award categories.

Details: Social Realist Film by Women by Ben Lamb (Teesside University), Anna Coatman, Catriona MacInnes, Samm Haillay and Edd Maggs, challenges dominant academic perceptions of British Social Realist film by capturing three critically-accomplished film makers, Kate Dickie, Tina Ghavari and Morag McKinnon, as they discuss the female directors that inspire them and the unique perspective women have had on Social Realist cinema.

Her XI-GU-BU (The Dance of the Warrior) explores how girls living in Mozambique are fighting back against sexual violence through appropriating the male warrior dance, Xigubu. This film was created by Karen Boswall (University of Sussex) in collaboration with Rosalina Nhachote, Samo Mulla, Emidio Jozine, Sidonio Givandas, Cecilia Engels, Rodrigo Coelho and members of the Mozambican Cultural Association Horizonte Azul.

Shelter without Shelter, also nominated for the Best Research Film category and created by Dr Tom Scott-Smith (University of Oxford) and Mark Breeze, tells the story of life inside Berlin’s large-scale emergency shelters during the 2015 ‘summer of migration’.

Three Lithuanians reflect on the time when they first began to hear voices, and relive life-changing incidents they've experienced since. Torment or blessing? Each has a unique take on the condition. Voices Apart is a documentary about living with the voices that set you apart.

The film was created by David Heinemann (Goldsmiths College) and Elvina Nevardauskaite, their third collaboration with their production company Broken Island Films. Voices Apart will premiere at the Black Nights Film Festival in Tallinn, Estonia.

Best Climate Emergency Film

This award is for the best film that explores how arts and humanities research relates to the climate emergency. The winning film will show how arts and humanities research gives us the tools, as individuals and as society at large, to understand environmental change, to adapt and be resilient in the face of it, and to communicate the threats to our planet.

A Short Film About Ice, by Adam Laity (University of the West of England) is a visually dramatic film-poem that documents the journey of a cinematographer through the changing landscapes of the Arctic, exploring and re-conceptualising notions of the sublime in light of ecological crises and climate breakdown. This film is also nominated for the Best Research Film, Best Doctoral or Early Career Film and Inspiration Award categories.

A Stork’s Journey by Benjamin Dix (PositiveNegatives / Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour) invites the audience to fly alongside white storks in this film exploring stork behaviour and their migration patterns from Germany to Sudan.

Common Heritage draws its inspiration from dystopic science-fiction narratives to offer an urgent response to the rush of deep-sea mining for rare earth minerals. This film was created by Emma Critchley in collaboration with Elena Hill, Sergio Vega Borrego, Nicolas Becker, Lucy Railton and Stefan Smith.

In Hot Water raises awareness of the accelerating glacier retreat in the Andes which is poisoning the lakes and rivers that supply drinking water to over a quarter of a million people. This film was created by Jemma Wadham (The Cabot Institute for the Environment) in collaboration with Raul Loayza Muro, Jon Spaull, Andy Fryers, Moya MacDonald, Erika Stockholm and the CASCADA project team,

To Be A Marma, also nominated for the Inspiration Award category and created by Ed Owles, Farhana Hoque and Alison Rooper, paints an evocative picture of the Marma people, a minority indigenous people living in the Bangladesh/Myanmar border who are facing mass migration into their ancestral lands as a result of climate change.

Best Animated Film

This new category for 2020 recognises films that have creatively used animation to tell stories or explore ideas in arts and humanities research.

Altab Ali and the Battle of Brick Lane by Diwas Bisht (Loughborough University), Dr Emily Keightley and Kazi Ruksana Begum tells the story of the racist killing of Altab Ali, a young Bangladeshi migrant worker, in east London in the 1970s and how his murder mobilised the community to take a stand against racism.

Bathroom Privileges by Ellie Land (University of Northumbria), Rupert Williams, Emma Parsons, Zoe Llewellyn is an animated documentary that explores the difficulties people face in accessing public bathrooms and presents this space as a place of negotiation of power. 

Just Like Our Lives by Dr Charlotte Dean, Dr Lisa Jones (University of Hull), East Riding of Yorkshire Children in Care Council and My Pockets Arts follows the educational experience of children and young people in care and addresses the need for improved teacher training to minimise the difficulties faced by these students.

The Adventures of Alice in Typhoidland by Dr Claas Kirchhelle (University of Oxford), Dr Samantha Vanderslott and Ben Leighton documents the evolution of typhoid incidence and control since the 1850s through the lens of Alice Liddell (of Alice in Wonderland fame), whose family were repeatedly affected by the disease.

What Will You do Now, John? charts the story of John, whose wife has left him, and uses animation to explore Brechtian Alienation theory, human behaviour, social isolation and individualism. This film was created by Pooja Pottenkulam (University of East London) in collaboration with Simon Gape, Tony Fish and Michael Koderisch, Karl Minns, Claire Cox, Paris Rose, Glenda Clegg, Miles Fleet, Niall High and Lauren Fleet,

Inspiration Award

This award is for the best film that is inspired by arts and humanities research. Unlike the other categories, this award is open to everyone in the UK: you might have made a film after visiting an arts festival, a museum exhibition, or though enjoying books, plays, performances, or something else that has fired your imagination. The winning entry will share the importance of arts and humanities research to our lives.

A Short Film About Ice, by Adam Laity (University of the West of England) is a visually dramatic film-poem that documents the journey of a cinematographer through the changing landscapes of the Arctic, exploring and re-conceptualising notions of the sublime in light of ecological crises and climate breakdown. This film is also nominated for the Best Research Film, Best Climate Emergency Film and Best Doctoral or Early Career Film categories.

Nobody’s metaphor by Anna Sowa, Raheel Mohammed, Emily Mason and Remigiusz Sowa follows a group of Muslim girls and young women of colour as they embrace fencing and poetry for the first time. These two physical and communicative activities help them gain confidence, explore their identities and challenge the stereotypes that young women face.

Sounds Like Harlesden by Nathan Telemaque, Secaina Hudson and Kalina Blaize offers an audio-visual essay exploring the unique and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods of Harlesden, London, questioning our everyday environments and life experiences.

To Be A Marma, also nominated for the Best Climate Emergency Film category and created by Ed Owles in collaboration with Farhana Hoque and Alison Rooper, paints an evocative picture of the Marma people, a minority indigenous people living in the Bangladesh/Myanmar border who are facing mass migration into their ancestral lands as a result of climate change.

What’s next: the awards ceremony

The Research in Film Awards 2020 will be presented at a special online livestream event at 8pm on Wednesday 11 November 2020.

The ceremony is a prestigious affair and will be attended by members of the press, academics, film industry professionals, and the cast and crew behind the 25 films that are shortlisted, as well as anyone who is interested in arts and humanities research and film. The event offers a chance for talented and emerging filmmakers to step into the limelight and get their work noticed by a wider audience. The winners of each category are presented with an award and received £5,000 prize money to put towards their future filmmaking endeavours.

This year’s ceremony is entirely online, and you can join us. Sign up to receive emails about the Awards ceremony and we’ll send you a special invitation link to join us on the night. We look forward to seeing you there.