Published on 09 February 2023
The reactions of a bystander while witnessing vile abuse towards women and girls was the focus of a winning short film at an annual awards ceremony.
This is the 10th anniversary of a film collaboration between Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and the University of Sunderland, raising awareness about issues impacting on society, through films created by final-year Screen Performance, Performing Arts and Film Production students.
The project is funded by Police Commissioner, Kim McGuinness’s office, in collaboration with specialists from her Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).
This year, Kim set the brief for the annual project, and students were asked to focus on the behaviour and reactions of bystanders, in particular men, when they witness harmful or inappropriate behaviour committed against women and girls.
The winning film, ‘Choosing Silence’, focused on one man’s reactions and his dilemma in responding to his friends’ treatment of women during a night out.
Film Production student, Morgan Williams, Director of Choosing Silence, said: “It has been a privilege to work on this project and bring awareness to the issues of Violence Against Women and Girls. It is such an important topic, and as a male director, I am happy to have been given the opportunity to bring males into the conversation. Winning the Police Awards this year has meant so much to myself, the cast and the crew. I am so proud of all of them and the work they have put in, I couldn't have asked for a better team; they have stuck with the project from start to finish and overcome every obstacle together."
Stage three Performing Arts student Tamzin Toolin, who played Talia in the film, said: “Taking part in this year’s police award project has been such a positive experience and gave us a great opportunity to explore the important topic of male violence against women. Being a part of the winning film has been amazing and I’m so proud of the hard work that went into ‘Choosing Silence’ from everyone involved.”
Jonas Calangi, Film Production student, added: “I cannot be anymore thankful for the opportunity to use our talents in filmmaking towards important subject matters and using film. It's crucial we deliver the message in a visual way that anyone can understanding and relate to. Winning the Police Awards was a great boost of confidence for the team that was well deserved. I am very proud with the how the final film turned out and will be seen and used to put a spotlight on the issue of violence against women and girls.”
Dr Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader for Screen Performance, who helps organise the awards each year, commented: “It is amazing that this project is now in its 10th year! We are grateful to Northumbria Police and the PCC in continue to support this project. Its impact is extensive, and this really is the importance of continuing projects of this nature.
“This year was no exception to the excellent work we know the students can produce and create. These six impactful and innovative films addressed the important issue of violence against women and girls.
“Choosing Silence really demonstrated the active bystander's role in attempting to address and change the issue being explored. The whole group are commended for their tenacity, endurance and maturity. Six films that demonstrated an important collaborative project. We are, as always, so proud of our students.”
The students’ assignment subject this year was also timely with a number of high-profile cases of toxic masculinity and misogyny - from serious sexual abuse to the role of online influencers - hitting the headlines and debated by commentators and government policymakers alike.
Figures show 75% of women and girls as young as 12 have experienced some form of public sexual harassment and an estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experiencing domestic abuse.
Kim McGuinness, who wanted to draw attention to the issues, said: “Not only as your Police and Crime Commissioner, but as a woman, I am passionate about fighting for a north east where our girls and women are safe and free from abuse, violence and inequality.
“With the numbers of violence against women and girls-related reports to police increasing each year, films that help raise awareness of the issues that are faced by women in Northumbria and beyond, are hugely welcomed by me. It’s on all of us to demand change in society and I’m thankful to the students for using their skills and creativity to help drive this change.”
The students produced the films with the help of domestic abuse specialist Julie Smith, Women's Safety in Public Places Project Lead Kainat Javed, the VRU, and a specialist active bystander practitioner whose expertise is around engaging men and boys in conversations about violence against women and girls.
Students then researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all six films themselves which will contribute to their final-year marks. All productions are used as an educational or training tool to promote awareness of the issues locally and regionally.
Nicholas Glean, Senior Lecturer in Video and New Media, responsible for producing the films with the students, says: “It was a fantastic and emotional night and a great way to cap our 10th year on this project. Our students have once again risen to the challenge of producing sensitive films in a caring and mature way. The professionalism they showed this year was excellent.
“Everyone was a winner, but Choosing Silence won, and I congratulate the whole crew who produced it. The director had a clear vision from the beginning of the project and worked very hard with the entire crew to see it through. I am so proud of what they have accomplished this year!”
The awards evening was held on campus and attended by the University’s Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell, and the awards presented by Kim McGuinness.
To view all the short films click here.