RIFA 2018 - People on the Move Award: Stories of New Beginnings
We’ve revealed the films shortlisted for the 2018 Research in Film Awards (RIFA) and now we’re excited to give you a glimpse into each of the 25 nominated films. This week we’re taking a look at the five films shortlisted for the ‘People on the Move Award: Stories of New Beginnings’. This is a brand new category for 2018, which, in a nod to the seventieth anniversary of when the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury - an iconic moment in migration history - explores the untold stories of people who have moved from one place to another.
The judges were looking for imaginative films that showcase the stories and impact of human migration at a transnational, national and/or local community level, and all of these films provide an interesting and at times little-known take on this very subject.
Select a film to watch from this list of quick links:
To Be Here - Sam Jury, University of Hertfordshire
Amukta - Dominique Unsworth, University of West London
Che Fang/Edge Town - Austin Williams, Kingston School of Art and XJTLU universities
Blood Sugar - Dr Susanne Seymour, University of Nottingham
Untold Stories: A Documentary of Kent's Black History - Helen Curston, University for the Creative Arts
Sam Jury, University of Hertfordshire
To Be Here examines the long-term displacement of Sahrawi refugees living in camps in the Sahara desert region of Algeria, where they were displaced from their Western Sahara homeland following the 1975 war with Morocco (one of the longest refugee crises to date). Filmmaker, Sam Jury explains more: “Migration and resulting refugee crises are among the most pressing and enduring issues of our time. The status of the Sahrawi refugees is emblematic of this, as they have been living in so-called temporary camps for over 40 years. In this film, the focus is on the female experience of displacement conveyed through the words of a young female Sahrawi translator, talking of loss, both past and future. I hope this will raise awareness of the Sahrawi situation and by extension the ever-growing threat of homelessness in the 21st century.”
The filming and research of To Be Here was carried out as part of a residency, driven by dialogue with local people who later took performative roles within the film.
"The method of scripting deployed a fictive or cinematic form," explains Sam "...whereby fabrication and stylisation are co-mingled with documentary material to create an alternative form of documentary. In framing, the filming fixated on the care-worn spaces of the camp, devoid of specific human personalities.”
Sam is an artist and part-time lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire where she leads the Contemporary Arts Practice Research Group. For the last six years, she has been working with the themes of loss, displacement and what she terms ‘suspended trauma’ - resulting in projects such as Climart - a five-year research project housed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology that investigates the efficacy of arts/science collaborations and the effect of visual arts in communicating climate change.
Dominique Unsworth, University of West London
Amukta follows the story of slave labourer Harvey, who stuck in his dead end job, yearns to escape his life of hardship. Living in his tin shack, which resembles something out of an Indian slum, we come to discover that Harvey is in fact living in the UK. A victim of an illegal immigration trap, Harvey has no means of getting back to his motherland India, except by smuggling himself out. With no money to do so, Harvey is suddenly presented with an opportunity of a lifetime when his boss wins a lottery ticket, enough for him to pay a trafficker to smuggle him out of the UK. With no experience of carrying out a heist, he must use all of his wit and guile to obtain the ticket and free himself from a life of poverty.
The film was produced as part of a Young Roots, Heritage Lottery Fund project and explored the artistic contribution of British Asians that had migrated to Southall and the surrounding areas, with particular emphasis on cinema.
Having worked as a part-time media lecturer for many years, filmmaker Dominique Unsworth completed a part-time MBA before making Amukta with Southall local Tarun Thind. This film was one of several short dramas produced by Dominique, whilst she carried out an AHRC research project, supported by the University of West London on ‘Cultural Leaders in Digital Cinema Distribution’ as a result of her Arts Council England Clore Fellowship. She founded and runs Resource Productions, a social enterprise based in Slough, supported by Pinewood Studios.
Dominique said: “It’s amazing to have Amukta shortlisted for the ‘People on the Move’ award as Resource Productions’ work continues to explore the stories and experiences of people from different backgrounds and cultures, being challenged by, adjusting to and engaging with life in the UK. The associated ARHC, UWL and Clore paper highlights the challenges of getting hidden British stories like these made and seen by a British audience. I hope the success of this film will encourage more diverse British filmmakers to make and share their stories.
“Tarun worked with students from his old school to inspire the story development and we trained local young people up to serve as crew trainees on the film. The film was shot in and around Southall and focuses on Modern Day Slavery.”
Austin Williams, Kingston School of Art and XJTLU universities
This research documentary by tutor Austin Williams and architecture student Jiang Hao together with a small team of architecture students explores the urban fringe of the emerging city of Suzhou SIP in Jiangsu Province, China.
The project arose from a design research question looking at the quality of life of urban migrants and displaced people in a modern city. As Austin Williams explains: “The Chinese state, in its search for development land, regularly evicts such people and “rewards” them with a bigger, more modern apartment. In this place - the local village of Che Fang - the decision to develop was cancelled after two-thirds of the village had been demolished; leaving some people with new homes, some with nothing, and the remainder with their existing shacks."
The film tells the story of the social and economic changes taking place on the edge of the city, and features interviews with a range of people of differing ages and socio-economic status.
Austin adds: “[The film] explores how people's perceptions and relationship to urban development affects their community memory, their sense of place, and their thoughts about the past, their concerns about the present and their hopes for the future. It is a tool to understand urban development in China with significant lessons for urban discourse in the West. It is a study of the impact of change on places and communities.”
Dr Susanne Seymour, University of Nottingham
Representing the lives and work of African people trafficked through the transatlantic slave trade, Blood Sugar cleverly links place and history through the interpretation of a poem written by Michelle 'Mother' Hubbard. The film focuses on Newstead Abbey in Nottinghamshire, which was bought by Thomas Wildman in the early 19th century. Using the wealth gained from his Jamaican sugar plantations worked by African slaves, Thomas was able to restore the property to its current glory.
Dr Susanne Seymour, Associate Professor in Geography at University of Nottingham explains more about the thinking behind the film: “The film was led by the Nottingham Slave Trade Legacies volunteers and has African Caribbean people at its heart as interpreters, writers, illustrators, filmmakers and performers. It draws on archives-based historical interpretation, and the lived experiences of enslavement and racism handed down through song and other oral traditions, to recreate the link between Newstead and the group’s enslaved African ancestors.
“The creative film format negotiates the dangers of reinforcing dominant Eurocentric views when original archives, produced mainly by white plantation owners, are the central focus of interpretation. The film’s poetic form is particularly appropriate as Newstead Abbey is famous as the home of the poet Lord Byron.
“Filmed within Newstead Abbey, Blood Sugar seeks to reclaim the British country house as a site of African-Caribbean heritage and to open it up to people of African descent who have previously felt alienated and underrepresented in this key heritage space.”
Helen Curston, University for the Creative Arts
Untold Stories: A Documentary of Kent's Black History looks at this popular county, well-known for its cathedral and castle but where less perhaps seems to be known about its multi-cultural past.
Featuring BBC Presenter Ayo Akinwolere, along with interviews and personal testimonies from local residents, the documentary explores the history of African and Caribbean people in Kent. Filmmaker Helen Curston, who has worked for nearly 14 years for the BBC within current affairs and documentaries, and is Senior Lecturer in Television Production at University for the Creative Arts, said: “I am truly thrilled that Untold Stories has been shortlisted for an AHRC Film award – as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Black History Live’ project, it aims to develop a better understanding of the diversity of the Kent region, highlighting important untold stories from Kent’s multi-cultural history.”
Having premiered at the Chatham Historic Dockyard in early October as part of Black History Month, and forming part of an installation piece, Helen adds: “The project seeks to influence viewer’s experience and understanding of hitherto untold narratives and histories from both high profile and less well-known figures – it will raise the profile and awareness of Kent’s black history and to connect communities with a shared history of the area.
"Viewers are able to learn more about these stories through expert and personal testimony, of both ancestors of these figures and volunteer researchers and young actors who have engaged with the wider Black History Live project. It will challenge established notions of Britain’s history by highlighting the contribution of Kent’s Afro-Caribbean population to the arts, culture, politics and other aspects of socioeconomic development, challenging racial and cultural stereotypes.”