Film-makers in the spotlight

Date: 11/11/2016

Five remarkable films have taken the top prizes at the 2016 Arts and Humanities Research Council Research in Film Awards, held at BAFTA, London.

They ranged from a stunning visual reinterpretation of hillforts in Scotland's Grampian Mountains, to a frank film about young women's lives in rural India, a moving exploration of self-portraiture with a group of people in long term drug and alcohol recovery; plus documentaries about an inspirational Zimbabwean female rapper, AWA, and the fight to save the Southbank skate park.

Host, judge and BBC Film 2016 presenter Danny Leigh praised the diverse and compelling subject matter. “It's a genuine thrill to see film, this uniquely pliable, powerful art form, combining with the rigour and intellectual depth of academic research,” he said.

The judges also praised the bracingly diverse use of cinematic techniques, ranging from poetry, to gallery work, drama and documentary.

Launched in 2015, the Awards have again this year set out to showcase, reward and recognise work that combines research and filmmaking. They celebrate short films, up to 30 minutes long, that have been made about the arts and humanities and their influence on our lives.

“The equation is beautifully straightforward,” says Leigh. “Film allows research to reach a new audience. That research then allows the audience to better understand and decode the world around them.”

Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of the Financial Times and Chair of the Judging Panel, described her involvement with the Awards as “a profoundly rich and extraordinary experience”.

“Although we all of course know that the camera can lie. The camera can also be an extraordinary agent for the telling of truth,” she said. “That's the point where research and film come together.

Research is about assessing information and testing it. Film is the same in the way it is about editing what the camera captures and giving it impact.

“The range and richness of the film submitted was unexpected. As was the remarkable effects that could be achieved on what were often very tiny budgets.”

The Awards were divided into five categories: Utopia Award: Imagining Our Futures, Best Research Film of the Year, Doctoral Award: Best Film By An AHRC/AHRB – Funded Doctoral Student, Inspiration Award (public category), and the Innovation Award.

The five winning films were selected from shortlist of 25 covering stories from across the world, and addressing a wide range of timely subjects, from landscape and environmental change to capital punishment, people trafficking, and poverty.

Entries for the awards this year hit a record high with hundreds of submissions, up by 20% on last year. The overall winner for each category will receive £2,000 towards their filmmaking.

Mike Collins, Head of Communications, AHRC said: “The popularity of film as a way of sharing content demonstrates the reach and important role that film-making increasingly plays in telling the story of arts and humanities research.

“All of the winning film-makers have taken the craft of making films about research to a new level, with an eye for detail and a passion for story-telling, that they can all be rightly proud of.

“I was so impressed by all of the films and the ability to develop a compelling narrative that was captivating, engaging and entertaining.”

Links to Winning Films:

The Doctoral Award: The Caterthuns, by Kieran Baxter, University of Dundee

The Innovation Award: Village Tales by Sue Sudbury, Bournemouth University

The Utopia Award: Wonderland: The Art of Becoming Human by Amanda Ravetz, Manchester Metropolitan University

The Inspiration Award: AWA: Zimbabwe's Rap Queen by Max Thurlow

Best Research Film of the Year: You Can't Move History, by Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex

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