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2019 RIFA Shortlist

The award categories

There are five categories in the Research in Film Awards:

With the exception of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Award and the Inspiration Award, entries must be an output or by-product of research made by someone employed by an AHRC-recognised research organisation. The Inspiration Award and Mental Health and Wellbeing Award are, open to everyone in the UK.

Best Research Film of the Year
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.

Doctoral or Early Career Film Award
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.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Award (public category) 
This award is for the best film that explores how the arts and humanities can affect our mental health and wellbeing, and is open to everyone in the UK. The winning film will be new, interesting, and explore original stories and new dimensions of the arts and humanities.

Social Media Short Award
This award is for the best film that has been made specifically for viewing on social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. The winning entry will be technically innovative and understand its medium, creatively telling a story and sharing information in a short amount of time, while showcasing research in the arts and humanities in an accessible way.

Inspiration Award (public category)
This award is for the best film that is inspired by the arts and humanities. 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 the arts and humanities to our lives.

Best Research Film

FACES | VOICES
Paul Basu, SOAS University of London

FACES | VOICES is an experimental film created as part of Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements, an AHRC-funded research project exploring the remarkable ethnographic archive assembled by the colonial anthropologist Northcote Thomas in West Africa between 1909 and 1915. The archive is full of photographs of men, women and children. But what were they thinking as they were being photographed? FACES | VOICES invited people to reflect on the pictures. But while some see coercion, others see boredom, optimism or even resilience, and their diverse responses reveal something of the complexity and ambiguity of the colonial legacy.

Soundings
Gair Dunlop, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee

Soundings explores how sound, music, film and different kinds of listening are useful as tools in the process of public engagement. In particular, it focuses on helping people to think about how the North Norfolk coast is changing, how people’s lives are changing with it, and how they might respond. Made for the AHRC-funded project Sounding Coastal Change, the film is constructed around a wide range of natural, composed, and recorded sounds. Together these offer a new way to consider the mix of human and non-human activities and changes in North Norfolk, from the Cley Marshes on International Dawn Chorus Day to schoolchildren recording the local environment and questioning their elders.

Who is Europe? A Film in Three Acts
Ian McDonald, Newcastle University

Who is Europe? is a split-screen documentary in three acts. Shot in Dresden, in Melilla (a Spanish exclave in Africa), and on the Hungarian/Serbian border, the film presents snapshots of the ongoing ‘crisis of identity’ in and of Europe. In portraying the tensions around the different experiences and understandings of Europe today, Who is Europe? raises critical questions for our times and was made as part of a Europewide EUfunded research project, ‘CoHERE’, about Heritage and ‘Europeanness’, led from Newcastle University.

The Poor Man of Nippur
Martin Worthington, Dept of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Acted by students under their teacher’s direction, The Poor Man of Nippur is a dramatisation of an ancient comic folktale, and the world’s first ever Babylonian language film. The Poor Man of Nippur explores how a story known only from cuneiform tablets can be dramatised to engage live audiences. As if preparing a traditional scholarly text edition, the filmakers had to decide exactly what the story’s wording meant, and how to restore lacunae. Comments under the Youtube release of The Poor Man of Nippur show that the film resonates with communities that have heritage links to Ancient Mesopotamia as well as other groups.

New investigations into the Tahitian Mourner's Costume
Carl Heron, The British Museum

This film documents a programme of research carried out at the British Museum on a Tahitian mourner’s costume, one of only a small number remaining in the world today, in preparation for the exhibition Reimagining Captain Cook: Pacific Perspectives (2018-19). Captain Cook almost certainly collected the costume on his second voyage, when Tahitian chiefs agreed to receive highly-valued red feathers from Tonga in exchange for costumes. Cook and later missionaries witnessed the costume as being worn by a 'chief mourner' during elaborate funerary rituals. The film features researchers from across the British Museum as well as a visiting researcher and former Director of the Musée Tahiti.

Doctoral or Early Career Film Award

Wolves From Above
Demelza Kooij, Liverpool John Moores University

Wolves From Above is a short film that challenges the way wolves are commonly depicted in wildlife film as ferocious hunting animals and is a response to the question: ‘how can we understand wolves better using new recording technologies?’ To answer this, the research methodology consisted of filming using a steady, still drone. The resulting film reveals that wolves are actually quiet and tranquil. Thanks to this new approach the animals appear near and seeing them on film becomes an almost sensory experience.

Jazz 625 Live: For One Night Only
Dr Nicolas Pillai, Birmingham City University

Jazz 625 Live united 196,000 BBC4 viewers in celebration of jazz television history. It was a landmark in British broadcasting and the first wholly black-and-white BBC programming since 1974. The film showcased new research from the AHRC-funded project Jazz on BBCTV 1960-1969, led by Dr Nicolas Pillai, with project findings deployed across every aspect of production: development meetings, pitch documents, locating interviewees, historical factchecking and script rewrites on the studio floor. Jazz 625 Live is a model for how researchers and broadcasters can work to mutual benefit.

Danze
Dr Katie Donington, University of Nottingham

Danze was produced as part of the ‘Decomposing the Colonial Gaze’ strand of the AHRC-funded Antislavery Usable Past project. The film takes as its starting point an archive of photography produced by the British missionary Alice Seeley Harris during her time in the Congo Free State in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It uses the images as a basis for exploring the history and legacies of colonialism. The film is concerned with issues of representation and the ways in which past antislavery visual culture sustained damaging racialised tropes that continue to persist within NGO culture today.

Exchange & Flow
Joanna Griffin, University of Plymouth

What do audiences do with artworks? Exchange & Flow documents a five-day writing workshop held at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in Fort Kochi, India, that explored this question by bringing creative artists and audiences together. Through an open call, twenty-five writers were brought together to examine reciprocity between artworks and audiences. The film shows their journey through creative workshops that aimed to stimulate speculative thinking and elucidate the experiential, embodied and shared nature of viewing.

Intranquillities: Voices from Haiti
Edward Owles, University of Leeds

Intranquilities explores the defiance and energy of the contemporary Haitian art world. A polyphonic exploration of creativity and representation, it sets the work of various Haitian artists in the context of ‘postcolonial disasters’ such as the 2010 earthquake. The featured artists include writers, painters, photographers and performers, all united by a desire to use their creative practice to reframe how the country’s history and culture are perceived and understood. The film is inspired by the work of the late academic Dr. Anthony Carrigan and was initially funded through his AHRC Leadership Fellowship, entitled Representing Postcolonial Disaster: Conflict, Consumption, Reconstruction (2013).

Mental Health and Wellbeing Award

The Golden Window
Shreepali Patel  StoryLab, Anglia Ruskin University

The Golden Window explores the unconscious and conscious journey experienced by new-born babies undergoing therapeutic cooling following traumatic asphyxia. The film considers the neural basis of human consciousness and investigates how to engage an audience with complex scientific and emotional themes through the creation of a framework and language using the audio-visual representation of this state of stasis. In making The Golden Window filmmakers forged new links between the arts and healthcare by exploring the use of immersive storytelling and multi-platform digital space to encourage reflective practice and wider public engagement.

And it was the same with my son
Noemi Varga, Community Group

who have lost a child to radicalisation. Nicola Benyahia is a Welsh woman who converted to Islam after marrying an Algerian man. Her son, Rasheed, disappeared in 2015. At the time he was 19 and doing an engineering apprenticeship at a local garage. Ten weeks after he went missing he contacted his mother from Syria where he had joined ISIS as a fighter. Within four months of him being there he was killed in the desert. Nicola’s bravery sets a precedent for other trauma survivors and the filmmaker believes And it was the Same with my Son could inspire others to come forward and share their experience.

Fashion in the Dark
Emily Ford-Halliday, Edinburgh University

Clothing is fundamental to our identity and how we dress allows us to form non-verbal connections with others. But what if you are blind or visually impaired? Fashion in the Dark is a creative documentary project that aims to visually and audibly interpret the experiences that people with impaired vision have of fashion. The film explores the impact that losing sight has on mental health, well-being, confidence, sense of identity and ability to choose the clothes independently. It explores participants growing confidence and independence, but also how fashion is one of the least accessible arts for people who are visually impaired or blind.

Open Doors: Stories from a very different Salford
Caroline Swarbrick, Lancaster University

The Open Doors Research Group was founded in 2015 to give people affected by dementia the opportunity to develop their own cultural heritage project, that would be led, designed and undertaken by group members. To date it has involved over 50 people in its research activities. One output has been Stories from a very different Salford, a collection of biographical narratives showcasing what life was like growing up in Salford (Greater Manchester) during the 1940s and 1950s, before the dawn of the technological era and urban regeneration. Keen for their project to be both visual and creative – as well as appealing to a younger audience – the group worked in collaboration with a Salford-based animation company to blend each biographical narrative into a collective journey.

Mind=full
Sarah Day, DaybyDay Productions

Mind=full is a powerful experiential film that explores the phenomena of 'hearing voices' through the voice of the character 'Chatty Cathy', and encourages the audience to develop a sense that they can control the voices and tell them to stop. The use of subtitles shows what someone with anxiety hears in their head set against the reality of what is actually being said. The continuous movement of the camera and rhyme in the narration gives a feel of being unable to escape one's thoughts, which demonstrates how it feels to have depression and anxiety.

Best Social Media Short

Life on the Move
Migration Leadership Team, SOAS University of London

Through stop-motion animation, Life on the Move explores the complex reasons behind migration. It features 3D printed scans of real people and explains their divergent reasons for crossing borders. The film explores how researchers can collaborate with artists in innovative ways to generate new kinds of knowledge and engage wider audiences in debates about complex social and economic issues. It showcases the research themes and creative partnerships emerging from the London International Development Centre Migration Leadership Team, an AHRC/ESRC funded initiative aimed at developing a new strategy for migration research.

Have you heard about Shutb?
Ilona Regulski, The British Museum

Have You Heard About Shutb? is a short video produced by local people from a rural village in Upper Egypt. It is designed to create pride, ownership and a platform to express the value that they found in their own community. The film was produced as part of a research project aimed at reconstructing the deep history of the Asyut region and uses film and storytelling as a strategic tool to explore various ways of connecting the local community with its heritage. The film is scripted, presented and produced by members of that community, and sends a positive message to the wider Egyptian audience that local people should and can be involved in sharing their history and identity with the wider world.

Wanderings and meanderings of the mind and body
Dr Kai Syng Tan Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London & Manchester Metropolitan University.

Wanderings and meanderings of the mind and body is a film poem that draws on themes and materials from an art-science project #MagicCarpet, which explores mind-wandering and how that relates to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the creative process. Fragmented, and with no linear plot, viewers can dip in and out, but equally ‘journey along’ with the haunting soundtrack. The film’s theme is further heightened and performed when enjoyed on mobile devices by viewers on the move. The film is a gentle invitation for people not in arts and humanities to learn more about research.

Goldsmiths research questions: What secrets did Victorian cyclists hide in their wardrobes?
Ashley Simpson, Goldsmiths, University of London

The film explores the work of Goldsmiths, University of London, sociologist Kat Jungnickel around Victorian women’s cyclewear, and the ways in which that subject allows us to explore issues such as gender politics and the changing nature of public space in late 19th Century Britain. What secrets did Victorian cyclists hide in their wardrobes? was created with social media in mind, striving to explain research in an engaging and accessible way, to a wide audience, in under 5 minutes. The film allows a non-academic audience to understand and feel part of an area of research which they might not otherwise be aware of, and aims to showcase the merits of research in the humanities more generally.

We are Children of the World
Katrin Kohl, University of Oxford

We are Children of the World is designed to demonstrate the creative potential of languages and show that there is more to languages than their practical benefits for communication. Languages are, in fact, our key medium for self expression and at the heart of individual and collective cultural identity. The film includes snippets of folk songs sung by children in seven different languages: Arabic, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Swahili and Urdu. This version of We are Children of the World is an edited version of a longer film that forms part of a package of resources available for teachers and community choirs to encourage them to perform the song.

Inspiration Award

Life on the Move
Osbert Parker,  Director, Animator & Co-Producer

Through stop-motion animation, Life on the Move explores the complex reasons behind migration. It features 3D printed scans of real people and explains their divergent reasons for crossing borders. The film explores how researchers can collaborate with artists in innovative ways to generate new kinds of knowledge and engage wider audiences in debates about complex social and economic issues. It showcases the research themes and creative partnerships emerging from the London International Development Centre Migration Leadership Team, an AHRC/ESRC funded initiative aimed at developing a new strategy for migration research


North Star Fading
Benjamin Dix, PositiveNegatives

North Star Fading is based on the testimonies of three Eritrean women who made the journey from Eritrea to the UK between 2006 - 2012 overland through Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya, the Mediterranean, Europe and to the UK. Two of the women were sent back to Eritrea after failed asylum cases and one of the women made the journey again and was successfully granted asylum in the UK on her second attempt. The film ‘stitches’ together illustrations to produce a ‘continuous zoom’ effect that draws audiences in to their extreme, relentless journey. The soundtrack is provided by the British Eritrean spoken word poet, Lula Mebrahtu.

Intranquillities: Voices from Haiti
Edward Owles, University of Leeds

Intranquilities explores the defiance and energy of the contemporary Haitian art world. A polyphonic exploration of creativity and representation, it sets the work of various Haitian artists in the context of ‘postcolonial disasters’ such as the 2010 earthquake. The featured artists include writers, painters, photographers and performers, all united by a desire to use their creative practice to reframe how the country’s history and culture are perceived and understood. The film is inspired by the work of the late academic Dr. Anthony Carrigan and was initially funded through his AHRC Leadership Fellowship, entitled Representing Postcolonial Disaster: Conflict, Consumption, Reconstruction (2013).


FACES | VOICES
Paul Basu, SOAS University of London

FACES | VOICES is an experimental film created as part of Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements, an AHRC-funded research project exploring the remarkable ethnographic archive assembled by the colonial anthropologist Northcote Thomas in West Africa between 1909 and 1915. The archive is full of photographs of men, women and children. But what were they thinking as they were being photographed? FACES | VOICES invited people to reflect on the pictures. But while some see coercion, others see boredom, optimism or even resilience, and their diverse responses reveal something of the complexity and ambiguity of the colonial legacy.

Spirit
Ross Harrison and Dr Jane Dyson

Spirit explores what it takes to feel at home in a remote Himalayan village. The film tells two interwoven stories. The first follows Saraswati, who married into the village 20 years ago as the first educated daughter-in-law to join her new family, and wondered how she would ever belong. A parallel story explores the entire village as it pours time and energy into the Pandav Lila festival, a ten-day re-enactment of stories from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Spirit reveals how belonging cannot be assumed, but is the slow alchemy of work, friendship, love, loss and belief. It tracks the contours of individual lives and is tested by the rapid social and economic change that is transforming rural areas

The awards ceremony

The Research in Film Awards 2019 will be presented at a special ceremony at the BFI Southbank in November.

The ceremony is a prestigious affair and is attended by members of the press, academics, film industry professionals, and the cast and crew behind the 25 films that are shortlisted. 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 £2,000 prize money to put towards their future filmmaking endeavours.

Last year’s award winners were announced at BAFTA 195 Piccadilly on Thursday, November 2018. Watch the streamed live version of the 2018 ceremony on YouTube (1 hour, 45 minutes) with reaction from the winning teams, hosted by writer and broadcaster Danny Leigh and featuring a fantastic line up of presenters including Chairman of ITV Sir Peter Bazalgette, award-winning filmmakers Roger Graef OBE and Kim Longinotto, TV presenter Sophie Morgan and Catherine Mallyon, Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.