Short film challenges 'scarred baddies' stereotype

Freddy Krueger Freddy Krueger is a typical example of Hollywood's many disfigured villains

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Some 750 cinemas across the UK will be running a short film to challenge movie attitudes to facial disfigurement.

The one-minute film, starring Downtown Abbey's Michelle Dockery and Leo Gormley, will be shown ahead of feature films at Odeon cinemas for a fortnight.

"We are not suggesting that no villain has a scar, we're just saying, let's be more creative about this," said Alison Rich, of charity Changing Faces.

"It's just become a very lazy shorthand for film-makers," she adds.

"Without saying or doing anything, an actor with a scar can walk on screen and audiences are attuned to thinking 'there's a baddie'," Ms Rich, who is heading up the Face Equality on Film Campaign, told BBC News.

"And that portrayal sets up a moral judgement that extends to the wider world... to the playground, and to the job market."

Start Quote

We don't want to alienate the film industry, we want to work in partnership with them”

End Quote Alison Rich, Changing Faces

According to Changing Faces, one in every 111 people in the UK has a significant disfigurement to their face.

Yet a 2008 survey suggested that 90% of people find in difficult to attach positive qualities to people with disfigurements.

Ms Rich cites Pixar animation Finding Nemo as one of the few films where a physical disfigurement (a damaged fin) is "just one aspect of a character and doesn't determine the storyline".

"We don't want to alienate the film industry, we want to work in partnership with them," she adds.

Leo Gormley in Leo The short film stars Leo Gormley, a man with burn scars, opposite TV's Michelle Dockery

The charity hopes their film will encourage audiences to think about the issue and plans to set up an advisory group to help film-makers include facial disfigurement in their work in a more positive manner.

"We're so used to seeing people with disfigurements portrayed as the villain in films that it may be hard for people to imagine they could ever play someone's friend, the Dad picking up his kids from school, the US President, or a lover," says James Partridge, founder of Changing Faces.

"Freddy Krueger, Scarface and Two-Face are just some of the names that our clients get called at school, on the street and at work.

"Changing Faces hopes the film and campaign will encourage audiences and the wider film industry to think about how disfigurement can be portrayed in a more balanced way."

There are notable exceptions in Hollywood of heroic characters with facial scarring including Harry Potter, comic book character Jonah Hex and Avengers star Nick Fury, played by Samuel L Jackson.

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