Posted Wednesday 25 January 2017
A heart-rending look into a world without sight is among the productions that have thrust three Kingston University graduates into the BAFTA spotlight, securing five nominations between them.
Peter Middleton, 34, graduated from the University's BA Fine Art course in 2005 and has since co-written and co-directed the documentary Notes on Blindness with fellow filmmaker James Spinney. Fellow Kingston University alumnus James Ewers also worked on the film as a composer. The film is celebrating three nominations for Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut and Documentary in the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) 2017 awards.
It follows the journey of John Hull, Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at the University of Birmingham, who gradually went blind and began an audio diary to try and understand his new world. Professor Hull recorded 16 hours of material during three years and published them in Touching the Rock, a diary in which he reveals how every human experience and interaction is transformed with the loss of his sight.
Kingston University alumnus Peter who hails from Norwich, said the diary served as the inspiration for the documentary, which took him and his team more than five years to produce. "It's been incredible to see people respond so warmly to the film, especially as John passed away during production," Peter said. "We hope the film stands as a fitting tribute to his life and work and brings more people to share his extraordinary story.
Another Kingston University alumnus hoping to taste BAFTA success is Jac Clinch, 25, who graduated from the Illustration Animation BA(Hons) course in 2014. He is celebrating a nomination in the category for British Short Animation.
Jac's short film, The Alan Dimension, centres on Alan Brown, a man gifted with the ability to see the future. The story idea came from Jac's own experiences of déjà vu. However, the gift is not as good as it sounds, with Alan's visions proving somewhat limited - much like Jac's own real-life premonitions. "When I feel like I've dreamed of a moment before it's happened, a small voice in my head thinks 'maybe I have seen the future' - unfortunately though, these visions concern incredibly mundane and routine occurrences," Jac, from Kent, explained. "I found it funny that such a miraculous, time-space-continuum-defying ability could be used to try and foresee what's for breakfast next Tuesday, and so Alan was born."
The film, co-written and directed by Jac and his team, is winning the hearts of film critics having previously been selected for the Cinéfondation short film programme at Cannes Film Festival in May last year. "Kingston University gave me a solid base of skills and techniques in animation and visual communication that I've continued to build on with each of my films, but this is the first film I've shown to public audiences so I really had no idea how it would be received," Jac said. "There's incredible talent behind this year's entries so we're over the moon to be nominated for a BAFTA."
Alongside Jac, a second Kingston University illustration and animation graduate has been nominated in the same category. Jennifer Zheng, 22, graduated with a first class degree from the Illustration Animation BA(Hons) course in 2016 and her production is also up for best British Short Animation.
Now working as a junior designer and animator at animation studio Moth, Jennifer has gone from strength to strength. In her second year at Kingston University she won a yellow pencil prize in the industry's high profile D&AD Newblood Awards and she was then recognised by popular creative website It's Nice That as one of their 2016 Graduates of the year. Jennifer has a penchant for true characters and thought-provoking narratives and her BAFTA-nominated short film Tough draws from her own personal experiences growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland as the daughter of Chinese parents.
Tough explores misunderstandings between a Chinese mother and her British-born daughter, who has recently entered adulthood in the Western world. The seeds of the idea for the film were planted when Jennifer was researching cultural appropriation for her dissertation. "I came across a lot of work on Asian identity and race that really struck a chord with me," Jennifer said. "I'd never explored that side of myself, or the lives of my parents and what they went through during the Cultural Revolution in China," she explained. "I did a series of interviews with my mother that formed the foundation of the film – it was difficult to do but it's been rewarding to see how much our relationship has improved after making the film."
Course director for illustration and animation Geoff Grandfield said he was extremely impressed by the success of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture's alumni. "The short films are beautifully visualised and both are amazing achievements," he said.
"They exemplify what we aim to offer on the Illustration Animation BA(Hons) course – an opportunity to have the intellectual and creative freedom to explore and understand who you are."
The BAFTA award winners will be announced on Sunday, 12 February.