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Research in Film Awards 2016: The Utopia 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 UTOPIA Award?

The Utopia Award celebrates the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. Published in December 1516, More’s Utopia presented an imaginative and playful vision of the world as it could be at a time of great change. More’s Utopia is clear that many visions for society are possible.

Judges were looking for: imaginative films which use arts and humanities research as a basis to explore the future – whether today’s futures, or yesterdays. Judges hoped to see films that celebrate and explore new ways we might live, make, work, play and dream.

Judges of this category were:

  • Matthew Reisz, of the Times Higher Educational Supplement
  • Professor Rajinder Dudrah, University of Birmingham

The 2016 Research in Film Awards Utopia shortlist

Wonderland: The Art of Becoming Human

Amanda Ravetz, Manchester Metropolitan University

‘Wonderland: the art of becoming human’ was made as part of a research project about the utopianism of recovery - the idea that recovery requires the daily renewal of hope. It documents artist Cristina Nunez's use of self-portraiture with a group of people in longer term recovery and captures their ambitions to 'feel and be felt by other feeling people'.

Judges commented that the film was ‘powerful and thought evoking’ as well as ‘dark, enlightening and utopian in mixed measures.’

Spiritual Flavours

Laura Cuch, University College London

The film ‘Spiritual Flavours’ interweaves biographical narratives and spiritual accounts from Betty, Aziz and Ossie (who belong to a Catholic church, a mosque and a liberal synagogue, respectively) with the experiences of cooking in their homes. The chosen recipes thread biographical narratives, spirituality and everyday practices of cooking, praying and eating in community.

Judges described the film as ‘a tactile piece of creative work and thinking’ that portrays a ‘very strong and emotive statement’.

At the Edge of the Present

Roman Gerodimos, Bournemouth University

‘At the Edge of the Present’ is a short essay on how we engage with each other and with our physical surroundings; on the challenges facing cities in an era of mobility and super-diversity; and on the importance of memory in re-envisaging public space.

Judges described the film as ‘very strong’ and commented that it ‘challenged the viewer to reflect’.

Chasing the China Wind: A Musical Journey

Chen-Yu Lin, University of Liverpool

This film shines new light on a genre of music known as ‘China Wind' (zhongguofeng) This style of music, a fusion of east and west, has swept over Chinese-speaking music world. This documentary explores musical memories of the post-90s Generation who listens to China Wind songs across Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and the UK. Through interviews with the audience and musicians, it presents how this engagement with music helps the young audience creating their identities along the way to discovering and defining ‘selves’, while imagining themselves being or not being Chinese.

Judges commented that this was a ‘vivid documentary’ and called it ‘excellent work.’


Sara Penrhyn Jones, Bath Spa University

‘TIMELINE’ offers a personal perspective on climate change in which researcher and film maker, Sara Penhyn Jones, crafts a narrative from her own footage recorded over seven years of activism. It starts at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009, journeys through Greenland’s melting landscapes with scientists, then to the low-lying nation, Kiribati, facing whole-scale displacement of their entire population because of sea level rise. In Sara’s hometown in Wales, Aberystwyth is hit by storms of an unprecedented scale. There is a broken telescope on the promenade, and a dead sheep on the beach, but the community rallies, with buckets and spades.

‘Beautifully and frighteningly filmed’ said the Judges.

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