UWE Wildlife Film Showcases Best of Natural History Shorts

UWE Wildlife Film Showcases Best of Natural History Shorts

29th October 2019

From house tigers to lone wolves and hopeful mountain chickens, the University of the West of England Wildlife Filmmaking masters students showcased a breadth of natural world stories and characters with their graduate films at Bristol’s Everyman Cinema on Friday.

Now in its eighth year, the UWE masters programme in partnership with the BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit is world renowned as a training ground for wildlife filmmakers, bringing the best of new talent into the industry. Its success is shaped by a dedicated team including MA Programme Director Peter Venn and BBC NHU Production Executive Ailish Heneberry. The programme focusses on storytelling, production management, editorial and craft skills, connects students with industry leaders from the independent sector and the BBC, and pairs them with BBC NHU mentors who advise them in making their films.

The 16 filmmakers told fascinating, charming and also disconcerting stories of human impact on the world around us. The diversity of their subjects ranged from the people who destroy illegal and deadly marijuana grow sites in California’s wilderness (This Land by Maddy Rifka Brunt) to how a little-known mathematical equation by Alan Turing can be used to predict patterns in nature (A Natural Code by Kriss Ceuca).

Mitch Buckley’s film The Fantastic Grandmothers charmed with a cast of endearing and fierce women who bond over a search for sea snakes in their local bay. Molly Hackett’s film The House Cats juxtaposed a backyard tiger owner with those trying to halt the booming private tiger breeding trade in the US. Treating her characters with respect, she gives us an unexpected glimpse into their worlds and produces a thought-provoking piece.

Many of the students were drawn to environmental issues, including Bianca Uyen who explores The Blackfish Effect on marine parks and Russia’s infamous whale jail. 

Archie Wilson lightened the mood with Red or Dead, a brilliant portrait of a quirky and lethal red squirrel protector. And Angus Walker provided gorgeous cinematography of New Zealand’s Kiwi guardians in Kaitaki.

Inka Cresswell shared the personal story of her family’s changing relationship with coral reefs in My 25: The Ocean Between Us, while Lea Hejn told a story of global connectivity, linking internet users to forest restoration in the Amazon.

Connie Thurton (Sun Keeper), Isaac Stirling (The Bees’ Needs), Nico Eguren Cleffi (Return of the Mountain Chicken), and Charlie Lillingston-Price (Tshiwana) highlight the people and conservation projects fighting an uphill battle to protect species in trouble, while Beth Staley demonstrates that even the smallest species can also save us. The surprising heroine of her film Scratching the Surface is a charismatic rat called Queen Elizabeth who sniffs out landmines in Cambodia.

Takaya: Lone Wolf by Callum McCabe and Wild Therapy by Bobby Hardy evoke touching human relationships to another species that are at once intensely personal and widely relatable.

Previous UWE Wildlife Filmmaking students have been recognised by BAFTA, Wildscreen Festival, Jackson Wild and other prestigious film festivals. Alumni Nardine Groch (The Great Pretender), Annie Moir (A Voice Above Nature) and Lindsey Parietti (Blood Island) all picked up awards for their masters films at this year’s Jackson Wild Film Festival, where Eline Helena Schellekens (M6NTHS) was also a finalist.

The programme from Friday’s screening including descriptions of the films and bios of the students can be found here.

The 2019 cohort includes Madeleine Brunt, Mitch Buckley, Kriss Ceuca, Inka Cresswell, Nico Eguren Cleffi, Molly Hackett, Bobby Hardy, Lea Hejn, Charlie Lillingston-Price, Callum McCabe, Beth Staley, Isaac Stirling, Connie Turton, Bianca Uyen, Angus Walker and Archie Wilson.

Words by Lindsey Parietti.

Image by Allan Staley.

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