Last night the first ever Gong was awarded to Hull filmmaker Sean McAllister for A Syrian Love Story. The recent BAFTA nominated documentary film, was screened at Kardomah 94 to celebrate the launch of the Rank Foundation’s Gongs a new awards event celebrating and rewarding filmmaking in the region, taking place at the city centre venue all this week.
I have written previously about this hard-hitting and timely portrait of revolution and refugees. On this my third viewing, I feel that in many ways A Syrian Love Story asks universal questions about identity: who am I, who was I, how can I balance the two and what of the future, who will I be then? A fellow audience member suggested to me that the ‘love story’ in the title is not, as might be immediately thought, the relationship between Amer and Raghda or even the parents’ relationship with their remarkably resilient children, but actually speaks of the special relationship that developed, between Sean and the family group.
Earlier in the evening filmmaker Antony Hatfield won a commendation for The Day Le Tour Came to Otley a co-production with Mark Currie and Catapult Films.
The film captured the remarkable spectacle of the world’s largest bike race, passing through the West Yorkshire market town. You can’t help but be moved by the stirring soundtrack and sense of occasion: the transformational effect on the place and the people is clearly visible.
The second film to receive commendation in the documentary category, was an incredibly moving and inspirational account of music aiding stroke rehabilitation in Hull.
In a ground-breaking partnership, between Hull Integrated Community Stroke Service HICSS and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra RPO, a bespoke five-month programme was created for stroke survivors, alongside clinical staff and carers.
The pioneering programme called STROKEstra which is now looking to be piloted in other geographical areas, to benefit stroke survivors across the country, culminated in a live performance last year at Hull City Hall. A programme leader explained, ‘There’s something that music does that other therapies just don’t.’
Filmmaker Paul Leeson Taylor spoke about how during filming, he witnessed incredible changes in the group. One of the participants explained how through being part of the STROKEstra they had remembered how to smile again.
I don’t envy the judging panel sifting through the dozen or so films entered into this category. A montage of all the entries were shown in the first part of the night. Viewing amateur and student work, alongside that of professionals, highlighted huge differences in technical and storytelling ability. The two films previously commended were both from professional companies. This is however one of the few opportunities for beginner filmmakers to showcase their work to the public.
Final point: I would have liked to see an Audience Gong. It would further connect the public to the awards, creating more exposure for the films and the filmmakers.
Other categories to be decided throughout this Gong week include: Comedy, Message, Education, Film Shorts, Animation – featuring BAFTA Winning Chris Hees’ The Bigger Picture – Music and Drama. The first Rank Foundation Gongs will conclude with the presentation of a Special Achievement Gong, at a gala celebration of filmmaking in Hull this Saturday evening.
See website for more details in Events: http://www.kardomah94.com/
Read more about STROKEstra:
A Syrian Love Story Review (Sept 2015)