Listen To Britain 2017 announces 12 commissioned films from new directors

These filmmakers all offer unique and different perspectives on modern Britain - they are united in their strength of voice and commitment to innovationCassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four
Date: 13.06.2017     Last updated: 14.06.2017 at 11.17
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Listen To Britain, Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister's poetic collage of British life, BBC Four in partnership with BFI Network, have commissioned aspiring filmmakers to capture the diversity of contemporary Britain in a series of new short films.

Following a premiere at BFI Southbank in September, there is an opportunity for the films to be broadcast on BBC Four.

After a competitive submission period, 12 exciting projects from a range of innovative new voices from across the whole of the UK were selected for the originality of their idea and the individuality of their filmic voice. The 12 successful directors were announced today at Sheffield Doc/Fest by BBC’s Cassian Harrison and Emma Cahusac and Wingspan’s Archie Baron and Deborah Lee.

Receiving awards of up to £5,000, the filmmakers will create unique interpretations of British life, taking inspiration from the original Listen To Britain, which pioneered a new form of documentary filmmaking.

Working with BFI Network, the UK-wide programme discovering and supporting the next generation of writers, directors and producers, the production of the shorts is being overseen by Wingspan Productions.

The following directors and projects are now in production:

  • Alex Campbell will utilise home videos and filmed interviews to create a poetic montage of stories from around the UK, showing our similarities are greater than our differences.
  • Amrou Al-Kadhi will consider the UK’s obsession with period dramas despite their failure to reflect modern diversity, and what it means for those excluded from this vision of Britain.
  • Callum Rice will explore the last Corporation Bus Garage in Glasgow and examine how our lost industrial past is providing hope for the future.
  • Catherine Harte will visit an accent training school to discover the importance that some people place on speaking ‘the Queen’s English’.
  • Florence Kennard shines a light on dog therapy, and through one special dog explores the lives of marginalised and often overlooked people.
  • Gareth Johnson will partner with Poetic Unity, an organisation that encourages young people to engage with their issues through poetry and spoken word.
  • Hermione Russell will create an intimate portrait of a 24 year-old female poet and artist with Downs Syndrome.
  • Maia Krall Fry will examine four of the internet’s biggest young female stars , considering their complex relationships with their followers and how it shapes their sense of self, on and offline.
  • Marcus Armitage will use animation to delve into a day in the life of Yorkshire, the place where he grew up.
  • Michael Ho will question what it means to be ‘authentically British’ having been born to a British mother, a Chinese father and raised in Milton Keynes.
  • Ruth Grimberg will create a sensitive portrait of a quintessentially British family who share their home with Ahmed, a young Kurdish man who fled Syria.
  • Theodore Tennant will look at South Wales through the eyes of a local taxi firm.

Cassian Harrison, Channel Editor, BBC Four, says: “These filmmakers all offer unique and different perspectives on modern Britain, however they are united in their strength of voice and commitment to innovation. It is incredibly exciting - and absolutely right - for BBC Four to be opening its doors to new generations of filmmakers like this, and to be bringing fresh perspectives to our audiences.”

Matimba Kabalika, BFI Network Manager, says: “This is such a timely and inspiring commission for these emerging filmmakers. Using a groundbreaking British documentary as a starting point to create a short for television, has given them a chance to develop their storytelling skills in a different way. It has been great for BFI Network to work with BBC Four and Wingspan to offer this opportunity to filmmakers from across the UK, and from the quality and scope of the projects that are now in production, I am excited to see the finished films.”

Deborah Lee, Executive Producer for Wingspan Productions, says: “Recent dramatic events demonstrate just how relevant, complex and intriguing it is to take the temperature of the nation and ‘Listen To Britain’ again. We are thrilled to be supporting these emerging filmmakers as they make their first foray into television and excited to be involved in producing a set of films which together will create a very special snapshot of our fascinating times.”

Notes to Editors
Further information about the commissioned films:

Alex Campbell - Voices of Britain (working title)
Home videos and filmed interviews reveal the broad and vibrant tapestry of our country today. Focusing on households and individuals - their hopes, their fears, their dreams - this film creates an intimate yet wide-reaching snapshot of now. From coast to coast, this is a poetic oral history of Britain which tries to show that our fundamental similarities far outnumber our differences.

Amrou Al-Kadhi - CLASH
In contemporary Britain, why do period dramas still capture so many of the nation’s hearts? Why do we glorify a past that was hostile to marginalised groups, such as people of colour, or LGBTQ+ communities? Why, in a time when diversity is so critical, are nostalgic stories so prominent on our screens? CLASH is an experimental documentary critiquing how period dramas can erase the diverse reality of contemporary Britain. This film will document the lives and voices of some remarkable queer people of colour in London, discussing the social importance of on-screen representation.

Callum Rice - Listen To Bridgeton
An impressionistic study of the last purpose built Corporation Bus Garage in Glasgow - a garage, full of vehicles that once symbolised Britain's industrial past, now serves as a means to a better future. Individuals, who are affected by uncertainty which deindustrialisation and austerity have brought to communities, find new purpose in this place. The restoration of Bridgeton is tangible, but more importantly the rebuilding of self-worth is reflected in the restoration of the vehicles.

Catherine Harte - Accents Speak Louder
A short documentary centred around an accent training class in East London, focusing on students who wish to speak the Queen's English. This is a story about what it is to sound British from the perspective of those who are trying to change their accent to fit in.

Florence Kennard - Eric (working title)
How can one dog make such a big impact on so many people’s lives? What does Britain look like from a therapy dog’s point of view? This short film about a dog therapist is therapy in itself, taking the form of a documentary-symphony; a musical journey through Eric the Therapy Dog's day. The film travels with Eric and his owner Diane, as they journey from a hospital ward, to a care home, to a day centre for people with learning difficulties and to a school classroom. Eric’s unique viewpoint gives the viewer intimate access to a selection of marginalised people within a busy London community.

Gareth Johnson – Poetic Unity (working title)
This film is a collaboration with Poetic Unity, which is based at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. Poetic Unity encourages young people to engage with issues which they would normally have trouble articulating through poetry and spoken word. Three members of Poetic Unity will create eight-minute spoken word monologues relating to their experiences of Britain in 2017. These performances will be filmed and location footage captured personifying the contributor’s lives and words.

Hermione Russell - India Hope: A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Woman
This is a portrait of a 24 year-old female poet and artist with Down’s Syndrome. Through the affecting and sometimes brutal honesty of her words we encounter a young woman who refuses to be contained within the moniker of a syndrome. In listening to these words we encounter an alternative perspective, which invites us to consider the value of both our differences and our similarities.

Maia Krall Fry - The Silent Roars
Young girls of Britain are creating a roar across the internet. With millions listening, they are sparking online debate and conversation. We reveal how the voices of their followers are also sculpting their own very real existence. This surreal audio-visual poem, centres on four of the internet's biggest stars. It explores their complex relationships with the sounds of the internet, and the blurred boundaries between on and offline emotions.

Marcus Armitage - That Yorkshire Sound
An audio-driven animated documentary covers a day of life in Yorkshire, where the filmmaker was born. This is a rhythmical glimpse of the diverse life and culture that exists in this varied landscape. It will capture the sound of Yorkshire, from its multicultural bustling cities like Bradford and Sheffield to the delicate sounds of birds in the country side and the hypnotic rhythm of the motorways and train tracks.

Michael Ho - From HK to MK
Born to a British mother and a Chinese father, the filmmaker was raised in Milton Keynes, a new town designed to be a utopia for the 21st century, but, for the filmmaker, felt symbolically far from racially-diverse London. This film examines identity as a fluid and constantly evolving state of mind and asks who determines what is legitimately and authentically British? The filmmaker poses questions about his own identity in a changing world and whether the recent political climate signals a less tolerant Britain.

Ruth Grimberg - A Very British Welcome (Working Title)
Beyond the high hedges of an ordinary English town, Ingrid and her children share their home with Ahmed, a young Kurdish man from Syria, whose family were separated as they fled the war in Aleppo and sought refuge in Europe. Ingrid is one of an eclectic group of volunteers who have opened their homes to help those refugees who have slipped through the bureaucratic net of government aid and find themselves without shelter. As Ingrid supports Ahmed in his efforts to find work and independence they find themselves on a journey of mutual discovery and friendship.

Theodore Tennant - Maesteg
This short documentary follows the journeys of two taxi drivers travelling through the heavily industrialised landscape surrounding the old mining town of Maesteg and Port Talbot in South Wales. This film follows the drivers to the places that are important to both their own personal stories as well as that of the area. The stories of these men and women, weave into the landscape much like the winding roads the taxis trundle along. The film acts as a record what happens when the industry, celebrated in Listen To Britain (1942) can no longer survive.

About BFI Network
BFI Network is a UK-wide programme discovering and supporting the next generation of filmmaking talent on the way to making their first feature.