ATV Today takes a look at the recent gong winners of the 2017 Whicker’s World Funding Awards.

“The judges were deeply impressed with Roy Delaney’s apparently simple but in fact many layered story of how one man has to relinquish the job that he loves, being the Bard of Glastonbury, to recover the woman he loves, the Bard’s Wife, Erica. It is a poignant story of our times showing how a tiny governmental shift on immigration policy can have a cataclysmic effect on the real lives of those struggling to tick the reshaped boxes. The story is told with wit and charm and a visual virtuosity that we found remarkable for any first-ever film maker, but especially perhaps from one who has been a hard working print journalist all his working life… until now. Respect.” –  Judge Jane Ray

The winners were announced at the Sheffield Documentary Festival Awards ceremony last week. The £80,000 Funding Award went to Pailin Wedel, 34, of Bangkok for Hope Frozen, a compassionate film probing the ethics and morality of cryogenics and the meaning of death while Edinburgh based Duncan Cowles, 26, won £15,000 for Silent Men, a side-ways look at masculine response to emotion.

Whicker’s World Foundation bestowed the winners with their gongs at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield on June 13th. Hosted by BBC Radio Sheffield presenter Paulette Edwards, the awards are named after the late great television documentary broadcaster Alan Whicker. The Whicker’s World Foundation has been built on the legacy of the celebrated journalist and to date has awarded a total of £102k to help support documentary makers.

Alan Whicker wanted to stimulate and empower talent which might otherwise not find its place in this highly competitive industry. The Foundation is looking for a spirit of inquisitiveness that will stimulate the viewer and tell something new and unexpected about the world.

Founder of the Whicker’s World Foundation, Valerie Kleeman, photographer, programme consultant and Whicker’s partner for more than 40 years, said:

“Alan’s wish was that the Foundation should provide a platform for young documentary makers. He would be amazed and delighted by so much of what we have seen. We looked for surprise and originality and have not been disappointed- the sheer variety of entries has been overwhelming, the choices agonising. The spirit of Whicker’s World is alive and flourishing in the most unexpected and inaccessible places.”

Funding Award winner: Pailin Wedel from Bangkok for Hope Frozen. What happens when a Buddhist scientist from Bangkok decides to freeze his daughter’s brain? When laser scientist Sahatorn’s baby daughter tragically dies of cancer, he invests in a dream of the future that one day she will be awoken and given another chance of life. A tale of grief and scientific progress, this is the story of how a 2 year old girl became the youngest human ever to be cryopreserved.

Pailin is a Thai-American video journalist based in Bangkok. She has worked on documentary programs for television including commissioned half-hour episodes for Al Jazeera English’s current events documentary reportage program 101 East. Aside from her television work, she also regularly films pieces for The New York Times, National Geographic, Monocle and the Wall Street Journal. Before diving into the freelance life, she was the Asia Interactive producer for the Associated Press where she directed online visual and interactive coverage for the region.

“We are so proud to be associated with the Whicker’s World Funding Award for the second year. The range and quality of film projects is outstanding and this year’s winner from Thailand and runner-up from Scotland demonstrate that range perfectly. They are exciting projects with huge potential.” – Liz McIntyre, CEO & Festival Director of Sheffield Doc/Fest

The runner-up prize of £15,000 goes to Duncan Cowles, 26 from Edinburgh for Silent Men. Silent Men is a documentary idea from Edinburgh filmmaker Duncan Cowles. A frank and at times humorous look at masculinity and its role in society, Silent Men will investigate the cultural norms and social conditioning that render suicide the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and make men three times more likely than women to become alcohol dependent. Shot entirely in the UK, the filmmaker will travel across the country interviewing men young and old in an attempt to get to heart of why some of them, including the filmmaker himself, find it so difficult to open up to their friends and family or to simply say “I Love You.”

Duncan Cowles developed his technical skills during a two year HND in TV Production at Edinburgh College. He graduated with a 1st class BA Hons from Edinburgh College of Art, where he developed his voice as a Documentary Director and worked for two years with the Scottish Documentary Institute. His short film Isabella won Best Short Film at the BAFTA Scotland Awards in 2016 and his short documentary Directed by Tweedie premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

The five finalists pitched their ideas at Sheffield Town Hall on Sunday 11th June to industry judges, including British investigative journalist Seyi Rhodes, CEO of Sheffield Doc/Fest Liz McIntyre, independent filmmaker Mak CK, Jane Ray Artistic Director of Whicker’s World Foundation and TVF Head of Sales Harriet Armston-Clarke. IMG Media Creative Director Richard Klein was instrumental in helping the Foundation compile the shortlist. The winning film will be completed within a year, in time to be shown at Doc/Fest 2018.

The judges were excited by the strong stories being proposed from across 5 continents. Sam Osborn from Boulder, Colorado & Nick Capazzera from Boston Massachusetts, for Universe. Universe is a documentary that immerses the viewer in a lifestyle of jazz that few musicians can sustain in 2017. The film’s main character Wallace Roney is the direct musical heir and only protégé of Miles Davis. Despite having lost his fame and fortune in recent years, he retains a lifestyle of jazz opulence that disappeared along with Miles and attempts to bring to life a lost score from 1968 with the help of a 24 piece orchestra. With the music that he recovers, he is attempting to revalidate a lost culture and bring it back into the mainstream.

Heidi Lipsanen from Bangalore & Raksha Kumar from from Helsinki for Damned Beef. With the unprecedented rise of Hindu nationalism in India, the symbol of the holy cow has turned into a tool for political power and a justification for violence. As a result, the world’s leading exporter of beef is facing a huge challenge as those who make a living from the production of beef are confronted with those who venerate it. An exploration of growing Hindu nationalism and how increasing numbers of vigilante groups are attacking beef consumers.

Nick Aldridge from Swindon for What We Believe. Preachers who are closer to pop stars, sermons that fill arenas and a congregation that is growing exponentially, What We Believe is the story of the organisation that is fast becoming Britain’s first megachurch. Hillsong has an expressed aim of attracting the youth of today by presenting Christianity in a new, modern way based on principles similar to rebranding Lego. With the church now generating more than £25 million globally, this documentary has secured exclusive access to its pioneering pastors, asking some powerful questions about the nature of fame and Christianity today.

As well as the £80,000 for the winner and a £15,000 prize for the runner-up. Whicker’s World Foundation is in partnership with TVF to offer a guaranteed option for a distribution deal for the winner. TVF will also be supporting the five finalists in the production of their final promotional reels for their pitches.

“TVF has already picked up rights for both last year’s winner and runner up and they seem to really understand the Whicker’s World mission. This extra option of distribution for the winner means the final film has a virtually guaranteed audience across the world.” – Consultant editor Jane Mote

The Sage Award; ‘Retirement’ was not a word in Alan Whicker’s vocabulary. He was 83 when he wrote and presented Whicker’s War, a much-acclaimed account of his army experiences in Italy, for Channel 4. He made his last series for BBC Two, Journey of a Lifetime, in his late eighties. The Sage Award will recognise a TV or audio professional who has come to air with an authored story for the first time, a prize of £5,000 will be awarded annually to an applicant aged 50 plus.

The £5,000 winner of the award for first-timers over the age of 50 goes to Steven Carne (54) from St Ives, Cornwall for My NHS: Voices from the Grassroots. MY NHS touches on another massive story of our time as a group of ordinary people attempt to take on the might of the government and save the National Health Service. Through the eyes of a working-class mother from Darlington and founder of 999 Call for the NHS, Joanna Adams, the film reveals the hope, hurt, effort and disappointments members of the public face when they unwittingly step into the political arena. A moving and insightful documentary that keeps the Whicker spirit of inquisitiveness alive.

The runner-up prize of £2,000.00 goes to Roy Delaney (52) from Bristol for The Bard’s Wife. Wes White is the Bard of Glastonbury, an honour going back centuries that he won in a poetry battle in the heart of this historic Somerset town. As spring approaches, he must organise the competition to find his successor, but he’s got something else on his mind. Following a piece of government legislation, his American wife Erica was unable to obtain a visa to live in the UK and he must find a job that will earn him the required salary to get her back. This short doc follows Wes as he makes the tough decision – give up the job he fought for or risk losing his wife?

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