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Newlyn PZ Film Festival 2020 Poetry Film Competition

Lucy and I had an enjoyable but difficult time judging the poetry films at Newlyn PZ Film Festival 2020 www.newlynfilmfestival.com  (now rescheduled for next year). But well done to all who entered, the eleven finalists and the prize winners, who are justly deserved. All the films were selected before the full onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic; yet it has transpired that the finely crafted winning films all contain narratives that address (sometimes acutely personal and philosophical) responses to death amidst life.

A particular mention goes to: Dave Richardson for Sinkhole and Adrian B. Earle (ThinkWriteFly) for BoyShapedSpace, for joint first-place winners. Each of these films addresses different experiences of losing (readjusting to a father with Alzheimer’s) and loss (the death of a son and friend), in such moving and affecting ways. Please note the BBC currently hold the rights to BoyShapedSpace, and so we are unable to screen it at this moment in time.


The filmic interpretation of Canadian poet Doyali Islam’s thought-provoking poem ‘Water for Canaries’ won second prize with evocative and mesmerising hand-cut stencil animations (such delicate and beautiful birds)  by director Suzie Hanna. It is a meditation on a photograph taken during a ceasefire after the bombing of the city Beit Hanoun in 2014, where the fragility of life remains poignant amidst the destruction. Hanna designed and animated the characters, and produced the storyboard and the compositing. She co-wrote the script with Jude Cowan Montague who also created the watercolour paintings and the soundtrack. I am told they worked on it 16 hours a day! Animation is a time-consuming shared labour of love; not for the faint-hearted.

In Fugitive Creatures, third prize winner Meriel Lland has expanded on her ethos of biophilia (embracing a connection with other species), linking the point of view of an elderly man, and the power of nature to sustain him through his journey in life. Lland quotes the spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh ‘Real change will only happen when we fall in love with our planet. We cannot “be” by ourselves but as “interbeings” with all that is.’ In short, to connect with and appreciate the natural world will change us, too.

Her words are so appropriate as I sit here in lockdown today, in a world that has been forcibly decelerated from the overpowering industrial and capitalist systems that have been out of control and oblivious to planetary destruction for so long.  We have to take a biophilic stance or there will be no planet, and no life to treasure. We live alongside and with other species not despite them. If you can, in these dark days, take heart by listening to the birds without traffic noise and pollution.  Hear them sing and feel it, and commit to memory for when the cogs start whirring again.


Julia Giles Ark; Diego Bonilla Big Data; Ian Gibbins Future Perfect; Mary McDonald Wishing Well; Colm Scully Electrified; Matt Mullins Semi-Automatic Pantoum; Lucia Sellars From a Knife Wound; Simon Daniels The Three Me’s; Marc Niehus Shiver; Kathryn L. Darnell Colour: Another Haiku; Emily Joy Oomen The Girl with Red Shoes.

N.B. See recent post – LYRA Poetry Films for the Environment – for Lland’s enlightening essay – ‘How They Came Together: Biophilia and Practice in Rain Frog Promise’, alongside other vital essays by Lucy English, Caleb Parkin and Helen Moore on the importance of prioritizing a shared ecosystem today.