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Cambridge Global Challenges


Now in their third year, the awards organised by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), are the only awards entirely dedicated to showcasing arts and humanities research through film. The provocative short films are all under 30 minutes and include drama, documentary, animation and even poetic films. Selected from hundreds of entries, the shortlisted films are innovative and varied, ranging from successful personal campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM), escaping sex trafficking and the positive impact of football for a woman’s team in Zanzibar.

The film industry experts and leading academics judging the awards include Chair of the judging panel Jan Dalley, Arts Editor of the Financial Times; Richard Davidson-Houston, Head of All 4, Channel 4 Television; and Professor Tom Inns, Director of the Glasgow School of Art. Drawn across five different categories, this year’s winners will receive a trophy and £2,000 prize money to put towards their future filmmaking. The prestigious awards will be hosted by writer and broadcaster, Danny Leigh.

Financial Times Arts Editor and Chair of the judging panel, Jan Dalley said: “Films can help us navigate the challenges of our age, from living with climate change to a world of robots, by bringing together rich stories and compelling characters, by exploring truths and facing difficult dilemmas.The wonderfully varied winning films from this year's Research in Film Awards demonstrate the real impact of this art form and how carefully crafted work can take us on a journey of discovery and amazement in under 30 minutes.”

One of the judges, Joanna Callaghan (Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at the University of Sussex) added: “The quality of films this year was excellent with a range of diverse topics that demonstrate the breadth of research undertaken in the humanities. Many of these show how effective film as a medium can be, to explore research questions, communicate findings and elaborate research processes in unexpected and unique ways."

The winning films across the five categories are all thought-provoking reflections on our time, based on arts and humanities research and include:

Pain in the Machine - Dr Beth Singler (University of Cambridge)

Best Research Film of the Year

Pain in the Machine started with a deceptively simple question: could, and should, robots feel pain? Could experiencing sensation prevent machines from damaging themselves and others? Combining popular culture with academic expertise, the film takes a lucid look at robots, artificial intelligence and the impact this has on human identity.

Shampoo Summit - Iris Zaki (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Innovation Award

In this uplifting film, Jewish and Arab women find common ground over the washbasin in a hair salon in Haifa. Israeli director, Iris Zaki, chats to the customers whose hair she is shampooing. Filmed by a fixed, unmanned camera, the documentary is an honest and surprising glimpse into contemporary Israel. Zaki has won several awards including the best Student Documentary Grierson prize in 2016.

Whirlpool - Kate Baxter and Elizabeth Dixon (Five Fifty Five Productions)

Inspiration Award (public category)

A short drama about the American, deaf/blind activist Helen Keller and her fight for civil rights. Helen Keller worked with ten US Presidents, and was a prolific writer and campaigner for social equality. World-renowned virtuoso percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, who is profoundly deaf, was a collaborator and co-composer on the film. The filmmakers conducted their own in-depth research and also worked on the film’s design with the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College.

Unearthing Elephant - Sarah Butler (Open University)

Doctoral Award

The film documents and questions the imminent demolition and regeneration of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in South London. The “Elephant” is a hub for the local community and supports many small businesses. Sarah Butler, who worked with local artists on the film, is also a novelist and Creative Writing PhD candidate at the Open University.

The Lived Experience of Climate Change: A Story of One Piece of Land in Dhaka - Dr Joanne Jordan (University of Manchester) and Ehsan Kabir (Green Ink)

International Development Award

This is a documentary about the impact of climate change on the everyday lives of people living in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh and their search for solutions. The film provides a platform for ordinary people on the frontline of climate change to have their voices heard. It has been viewed more than 100,000 times online and versions produced with Bengali subtitles have been viewed as many times as those in English.


For further details, please see the original webpage here.

Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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