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Hate crime in the spotlight for police short film awards

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Published on 14 February 2024

Student films raising awareness of the barriers to reporting hate crime
Student films raising awareness of the barriers to reporting hate crime

A short film highlighting the barriers that the deaf community could face in reporting hate crime has been named winner at an annual awards ceremony in Sunderland.

This marks the 11th year of a partnership between the office of Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and the University of Sunderland, raising awareness about issues impacting society through films created by final year Screen PerformancePerforming Arts and Film Production students.

Over the years the projects have addressed challenging issues such as county lines drug crime, male rape, modern-day slavery, the capacity to consent, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and cyber-crime.

This year the students have been asked by Northumbria Police to look at hate crime, which is becoming more widespread in society, and the barriers to reporting the crime. 

Hate crime is any criminal offence motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. Someone can be a victim of more than one type of hate crime. Barriers to reporting the crime can include trivialisation of abuse, belief that nothing will come out of it, concerns about consequences and escalation of violence‚Äč as well as inaccessibility of services.

The students have also worked alongside north-east charity Connected Voice, which campaigns for health equality and supports and develops local voluntary and community organisations.

They have researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all five films themselves which will contribute to the students’ final-year marks. All productions are turned into an awareness film, to be used as an educational or training tool for the police and specialists, and to promote awareness of the Barriers to Reporting Hate Crime.

This year’s winner, Silent Treatment, follows the story of Xander, a deaf student navigating a new course at university who becomes the victim of hate crime.

Performing Arts student Dan Howe, 20, from Durham, who plays Xander, said: “When we won, I was in shock and overwhelmingly happy for our group because we all worked so hard on this project, but it felt like a win for the deaf community just as much as our film group. 

“It was an absolutely euphoric feeling and I’m so grateful that all of our hard work was rewarded.”

Director of Silent Treatment, 23-year-old Film Production student Shaun Yugendran, from Malaysia, added: “It was a really amazing experience to work on this police project assignment.

“I’m really grateful for the cast and crew who performed so brilliantly, and for others that gave a helping hand in the filming process. To win has been a dream come true.”

The winning film was announced during a ceremony in the University’s Sir Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre, St Peter’s Campus, on Thursday 8 February, with the awards presented by Superintendent Rob Bosson.

Dr Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader for Screen Performance at the University of Sunderland, who manages the partnership, said: “The students once again showed maturity and professionalism in creating sensitive and impactful films that can be used to promote awareness around such a prevalent and important issue. 

“We are grateful to our colleagues at Northumbria Police for continuing to support this work. All of the films excelled our expectations, and it was a very close call this year. We are proud of all of the students and congratulate this year's winning film.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “A huge focus for my office is changing behaviours and attitudes that lead to harassment and abuse, and a huge part of driving change is education. Hate crime is something we all need to come together to tackle, and these films will be very useful tools for Northumbria Police for educating people around hateful attitudes and I hope they will encourage reporting too.  

“My office has supported this work for many years now as the students always deliver powerful work – work that can really make a difference raising awareness and bringing people’s experiences to life. My thanks go to all involved.”

Watch Silent Treatment here.