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Research in Film Awards 2016: The Innovation Award


The AHRC’s Research in Film Awards aim to find new and emerging talent that straddle the worlds of both film-making and arts and humanities research.

Hundreds of films were submitted for the Awards this year and the overall winner for each category, who will receive £2,000 towards their film-making, will be announced at an awards ceremony at BAFTA in London on the 10 November.

Films that have made the shortlist cover a wide range of themes including landscape and environmental change to capital punishment, people trafficking, and poverty. All of the films are rooted in arts and humanities research and use poetry, art and drama to explore these issues.

We are taking a detailed look at the shortlist in each category, follow the links to find out more:

What is the Innovation Award?

This category was for all films produced as outputs of arts and humanities research in the UK and was open to all those employed by AHRC-recognised Research Organisations in the UK. All films in the Innovation category must have been completed in the last year (since April 1st 2015).

When scoring the films the judges were looking for innovation in film-making, such as use of interactive media, games and animation. Film-makers need to have a clear link to arts and humanities research.

Judges of this category were:

  • Anthony Lilley, CEO, Magic Lantern Productions
  • Dr Shohini Chaudhuri, University of Essex
  • Professor Stella Bruzzi University of Warwick

The 2015 winner

The winner of last years Innovation Award was The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair – Ronan Deazley and Bartolomeo Meletti, CREATe University of Glasgow.

The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair is the first episode of ‘The Game is On!’, a web based series produced as part of the AHRC-funded activities of CopyrightUser.org. Drawing inspiration from numerous well-known copyright and public domain works, as well as recent copyright litigation, the video provides a springboard for exploring key principles and ideas underpinning copyright law and creativity.

“A well-constructed, quality animation addressing issues of creativity, IP and copyright for schools and undergraduates” said judges; “lively, engaging, witty (a la Sherlock Holmes mode), informative and educating at the same time.”

The 2016 Research in Film Awards Innovation shortlist

Professor Stella Bruzzi, from the University of Warwick, said: “I was impressed by the striking sincerity and sophistication of the shortlisted films in this category - all quite different from each other and all stylistically innovative.”

My Private Life II

Dr Jill Daniels, University of East London

‘My Private Life II’ offers a split screen view of the turbulent marriage, divorce, and old age, of her parents. Fictionalised enactments, voices placed over shots of houses, stills, home movies and a woman’s hands building a model house, give glimpses of a complicated and turbulent family history affected by her father's unacknowledged sexuality.

Judges described the film as both ‘Innovative’ and ‘moving’.

They Call Us Maids - The Domestic Workers' Story


Leeds Animation Workshop and Amy Charlesworth, the Open University

This animated film highlights the work of Justice 4 Domestic Workers, an organisation of women from very poor families, usually in the Philippines, Indonesia, South Asia or Africa, who go to work abroad to feed their families, but are often exploited, abused or treated as slaves. ‘They Call Us Maids’ draws on the experiences of many different migrant domestic workers, living across the UK. To help prevent others suffering as they did, women who previously survived terrible experiences have donated their time, shared their stories and provided voice-overs.

Judges commented that the film was both ‘visually rich’ and ‘authentic’.

160 Characters

Victoria Mapplebeck, Royal Holloway, University of London

Victoria Mapplebeck's story began a decade ago when she discovered she'd unwittingly archived a three year text message dialogue with an ex-partner. A story that told how they met, dated for just a few months, broke up and subsequently dealt with an unplanned pregnancy. In an age of rapid fire, often character limited exchanges, do we think before we text? Shot entirely on an iPhone 6, ‘160 Characters’ begins with a personal story, but it also tells a universal story, one in which ‘we increasingly expect more from technology and less from each other’.

Judges said the film had a ‘strong, innovative concept’ as well as being ‘emotional and affecting’.

Village Tales

Sue Sudbury, Bournemouth University

‘Village Tales’ is about a group of young women who are being trained as video reporters, as part of a local government initiative to give women a voice. As child brides themselves, they choose to make their first film about the problems of child marriage, a continuing practice in their villages. Village Tales follows these women as they make their film but also asks four of them to turn their cameras on their everyday lives, giving us an unprecedented view of life as it is lived today in many Indian villages. They film their husbands, questioning them from behind the camera and for the first time speak out about their lives.

‘A significant achievement’ said the judges, adding that it ‘sheds light on an important topic’.

The Return

Colin Andrews, Edinburgh Napier University

Inspired by Tarkovsky’s final film, ‘The Sacrifice’, ‘The Return’ depicts a wooden house as it burns down. The house then reforms from the ashes and this process of destruction and reforming is continued ad infinitum. The symbolism and form of the circle (in the movement of the camera), the building's connotations of home and 'dwelling', and the symbolism of fire as an agent of both destruction and renewal, ending and beginning, are the primary components of an exploration of loss, return and the cyclical nature of time and history.

Judges said the film was both ‘technically accomplished’ and ‘fulfilling’.

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