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Spotlight on...the Inspiration Award (public category)

Arts and humanities research touches all areas of our lives.

The Inspiration Award aims to recognise this and the way in which research speaks to the whole community. It is the only category in the Research in Film Awards that is open to the wider public beyond academia.

The award recognises films that have been produced in the UK and were inspired by the arts and humanities.

This could mean the filmmaker has been moved to pick up their camera after visiting a particularly inspiring museum exhibition, book, play or performance.

Or they may have been inspired after experiencing a fascinating piece of research, such as an archaeological dig. It could even have been a visit to a literary festival that fired their imagination.

Entrants can be individuals, community groups, teams or collaborative groups who have been stimulated by arts and humanities research.

The films shortlisted here have been picked for being particularly creative explorations of that engagement, and they all convey a sense of the importance of arts and humanities research to our lives.

A Girl of No Importance

Anya Camilleri

Vimeo password: 4GONI-ProRes422

Still from A Girl of No Importance

A Girl of No Importance tells the story of a teenaged prostitute who escapes from her traffickers, only to find herself lost in the medieval streets of Rome.

Anya Camilleri was inspired to make the film after meeting an NGO worker who told her some of the horrendous stories of the young girls coerced into prostitution.

Anya went on to interview ex-prostitutes, read books on the subject and meet with charities who rescued girls from traffickers.

The resulting film was described by the judges as “searing and imaginative” and “well-made and compelling”.

Anya said: “I made this film in reaction to researching sex trafficking of young teenagers, finding out their horrific stories. The numbers are increasing daily. It’s real, it’s happening now and it needs to be talked about. 

“Being shortlisted for this incredible award means the world to me, as the more exposure of the right kind this film gets, the more we are helping to raise awareness about one of the most important issues in the world right now.”

Circo Para Todos

Andrés Morales

Circo Para Todos explores the way in which the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in Columbia are being transformed by a group teaching them professional circus skills.

Andrés Morales was inspired to make the film by his experiences as Managing Director and co-founder of Living in Minca, a social enterprise founded in 2012, in London, that promotes and supports social enterprise and social innovation and the social and solidarity economy across the globe.

His film focuses specifically on the work of one such group - Circo Para Todos - and their goal of helping children and young people surrounded by violence to become circus performers.

One judge described Circo Para Todos as a “terrific film” that “uses film to the max to make all kinds of points – the talents of the young, the hard work required to achieve, the brutality of a system that wastes young lives.”

Greater Than Love

Alejandra Jiménez

Greater Than Love is a short mixed media film made in response to the ‘Navigating Risk, Managing Security and Receiving Support’ research project, which investigates the mental and physical health impacts of human rights work.

The film is inspired by both the words of a female human rights defender from Mexico and the poetry of Juliana Mensha. It uses the universal language of dance and animation to expose the drama of their everyday life.

The film also aims to raise awareness of the extreme challenges faced by human rights defenders, as well as celebrating their courage and refusal to remain silent in the face of injustice – even up to the point of risking their health, and even their lives.

One judge described Greater Than Love as a “wrenching film” that uses dance “to strengthen rather than soften the horror which female human rights defenders in Mexico face,” while another praised the imaginative use of mixed media.

Make it Right

Lotje Sodderland

Still from Make it Right

This remarkabe film shows how learning and education can transform the lives of people living in very difficult circumstances.

It focuses specifically on Makeright, a rehabilitative project that has been run at HMP Thameside since 2014, and which teaches creative and analytical approaches to male prisoners by using design thinking to ‘turn on’ their empathic and strategic skills.

As part of the project, the prisoners design and prototype anti-theft bags and we follow them as they acquire better practical, creative and empathetic skills along the way.

Through what’s known as ‘purposeful learning’ we see these inmates engage with self-reflection, self-organisation and ultimately self-employment issues.

The film powerfuly demonstrates how this approach has a clear impact on inmates – some of whom speak openly to the camera about their experiences.

Judges described Make It Right as an accomplished film that clearly illustrates how the fruits of research can be brought directly into the lives of people in difficult circumstances.


Elizabeth Dixon and Kate Baxter

Vimeo password: helenkeller

Still from Whirlpool

Whirlpool is a short film about Helen Keller, the 20th century deafblind American committed to realising social change.

The filmmakers, Elizabeth Dixon and Kate Baxter, chose to make their film because they felt that prior depictions of Helen Keller didn’t do her justice, as they have tended to place her as a secondary character; possibly due to the difficulty in depicting a deafblind protagonist.

But Elizabeth and Kate felt that Helen was a woman of real agency, and they were determined that Whirlpool would reflect her dynamism, portraying Helen as a vocal proponent for racial justice, social equity, and the end of war.

The film was inspired by in-depth primary and secondary research, including the 14 books, 500 articles and several public speeches that Helen wrote.

The filmmakers also interviewed many expert sources, as well as living family members, and other key characters, in order to capture the nuances of Helen’s life.

Whirlpool portrays Helen’s perspective by capturing this mist-filmed on 16mm film rather than digital to give a tactile feel. The film’s music is also tactile and was co-composed by 2x Academy-Award nominated and BAFTA-winning Jered Sorkin, and world premiere percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, who became profoundly deaf when she was 12-years-old.

One judge described Whirpool as “a very fine film” that “re-establishes Helen Keller as a social reformer and radical”, while another said that it was “beautifully made”.

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