Whicker’s World Foundation Awards Finalists Announced

We’re thrilled to announce our list of finalists for the Whicker’s World Foundation’s first ever awards. We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of strong, compelling and potentially groundbreaking entries that we have received from across the globe. It’s been a great honour reviewing the work of such accomplished film and audio broadcasters, and to carry on Alan’s pioneering legacy in today’s world of documentary.

Finalists in all  three Award categories: the Funding Award, Veteran’s Award and Audio Award have been selected by our judges , the winners to be announced in June 2016 at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Norman Fowler (78) is one of the finalists for the Veteran’s Award for his series The Truth about AIDS whilst the Audio Award finalists include broadcasts that were almost unbearably moving without an ounce of sentiment. They took the listener from the bottom of the Bago river, into the bedroom and out on the high seas with a pirate and a bottle of bourbon

The top prize is the Funding Award of £80,000 to under-30s looking to make their first full-length documentary.

The five finalists, who will be pitching their ideas at Sheffield Doc/Fest in June, proposed stories from Burma, South Sudan, the Amazon, the USA and Syria.

WWF Creative Director Jane Ray said: “Judges were humbled at the sheer amount of hard work put into each application and then somewhat devastated having to shortlist so tightly. Nominees who have made it to the final round all had something original to say, had unique access to engaging characters and were allowing the contributor’s story to emerge in their own words. They excite wonder.”

The audio  judges were Rikke Houd, Alan Hall, Misha Glenny, Kim Normanton and Jane Ray. Roger Graef, Valerie Kleeman, Elizabeth McIntyre and Mak CK judged film and TV.

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.

Liz McIntyre, CEO and Festival Director of Sheffield Doc/Fest added:

“It is vital to create opportunities for new and emerging talent to tell their extraordinary and groundbreaking documentary stories. This important award offers a rare chance for a new director to be generously supported during both development and production,  creating too a vital launch pad into international markets and audiences.”

The Veteran’s Award

The £4,000 winner of the award for veteran first-timers over the age of 50 will be a contest between Keith Hoult, a former IT manager from Witney, and Norman Fowler. Baron Fowler, former Conservative cabinet minister turned cub reporter at the age of 77 travelled the globe for his two-part series: The Truth About AIDS.

Fluechtlinge – Refugee. Keith Earnest Hoult, a fan of Alan Whicker’s ‘gentle approach’ to interviewing was inspired to create a ten-minute film about Syrians seeking refuge in a disused airport used for the Berlin Airlift. When he witnessed his friend’s wife Caroline trying to help refugees against a growing backlash he ‘felt the urge to film it if only for her family to reflect on later in life’. Keith learnt his film-making skills at the SAE Institute after redundancy and divorce turned his life upside-down. Judges were impressed that he made this entirely self-funded film as ‘a simple tale of ordinary people helping other ordinary people at their time of most desperate need’.

Fruechtlinge Refugee

The Truth About Aids – Reporter /Presenter Norman Fowler. Producer Smita Patel / Editor Hugh Levinson for BBC World Service.

In 1987, as Health Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government, Norman Fowler united forces with Chief medical Officer Sir Donald Acheson to create a leaflet called Don’t Die of Ignorance. Every UK household received a copy explaining, in unusually frank detail for the time, exactly how HIV is spread. Thirty years on Lord Fowler travels the UK, US, Australia and Russia to compare experiences and find out how far prejudice is still hampering effective policies for AIDS prevention. In the submitted extract he engages with drug addicts on the streets and congressmen in the White House, dodging unwanted attention from local police along the way.   

Norman Fowler

 The Audio Award

After much soul searching the five finalists of Audio Awards were felt by the judges to be those that best exemplified the criteria – to coax the human spirit into revealing itself, tell us something new and unexpected about the world and excite wonder. They are: –

Lore’s Story: Recorded and presented by Lore Windemuth-Wolfson and Produced by Elizabeth Burke for BBC Radio 4.

A profound record of a relationship between lovers as it evolves into one between ‘carer’ and ‘cared for’. During the last year of his life Lore recorded a series of conversations between her partner, the psychiatrist Paul Wolfson, and herself. They talk with humour and sadness about the impact his early onset Alzheimer’s is having on them and their young children, and the influence of his first wife’s experience of dementia on Paul’s final decision.

Rikke Houd praised “The complex minimalism in the storytelling” and said: “The recordings made in their bedroom at night are wonderful – we hear the intimacy and the tenderness and also the pain of the loss that they know is coming.”

Jane Ray said: “This is an extraordinary love story about creating meaning out of disaster. Yet it has real edge.”

Photo Courtesy of Lore Windemuth-Wolfson
Photo Courtesy of Lore Windemuth-Wolfson

The Dhammazedi Bell. Produced by Francesca Panetta for BBC Radio 3.

It is said that 400 years ago, during and attempted theft, the largest bell in the world rolled to the bottom of the Bago River. Only when the right leader appears will the great bell rise again. The language and grammar of mythical storytelling are used to weave an altogether more contemporary political narrative in the run up to the November 2015 elections in Myanmar after 50 years of military dictatorship.

Misha Glenny said: “Much has been written and broadcast on Burma recently, this was the first thing I had read or heard that took on a Burmese perspective. In was partly in consequence that the programme was so revealing. I found the production values to be outstanding, both mesmeric and enlightening at the same time.”

Kim Normanton added: “And it’s funny! There are lots of small moments of humour that really engage.”

Photo Courtesy of Francesca Panetta
Photo Courtesy of Francesca Panetta

Shoah in Jerusalem written and presented by Jonathan Freedland and produced by Sarah Peters. The editor was Iain Chambers for BBC Radio 4.

30 years ago in Jerusalem holocaust survivors and Israel’s entire top rung of political, religious and military leadership sat together in the dark for 9 hours to witness Claude Lanzmann’s documentary on the Holocaust, Shoah. Jonathan Freedland who saw the film as a teenager, explores the impact of the day Israel confronted the most traumatic event in Jewish history.

Kim Normanton said: “This was just beautifully made. Jonathan Freedland is hugely knowledgeable, yet doesn’t overcrowd the piece. Musically, holding just one note throughout a particular scene meant that you could feel the tension, and then it was dropped to give you release.”

Alan Hall said: “All the elements of this piece combined to create something much bigger; the music, the pacing and the consistency of the information were compelling.”

Photo Courtesy of Iain Chambers
Photo Courtesy of Iain Chambers

Little Volcanoes, recorded, written and produced by Catherine Fitzgerald, sound mix by Matt Thompson and Mike Woolley. A Sky Arts online commission. Made in the UK.

Catherine follows the rhythms of a day at Pilgrims Hospice, Margate, from early morning, meeting Claudia the cat at the end of the night shift to the nurse’s final “goodnight” to her patient. We hear conversations with patients as they talk about their illnesses, the things and people they love, and find out that people are Little Volcanoes.

Alan Hall said: “The gathering and compiling of materials in Little Volcanoes is particularly artful. The artifice is very well hidden, though the use of sound is highly accomplished and people are treated with an open sensitivity. It gives you an insight in to a world that most of us haven’t previously inhabited.”

Rikke Houd added: “All the components work well together, Catherine gathers up all these small scenes and puts them together in a way that makes the listener feel that every moment has been cared for. You can definitely hear that carefulness. It’s extremely well woven together.”

Photo Courtesy of Catherine Fitzgerald
Photo Courtesy of Catherine Fitzgerald

Johnny O: The Pirate’s Story, recorded written and produced by Lu Olkowski edited by Sean Cole, Samara Freemark, Amanda Aronczyk and Brendan Baker who also did the sound design. Recorded in the US, funded by KCRW and broadcast in Australia on RN Radio Tonic, part of the Australian Broadcast Company.

Johnny O is a linesman. He works the fast fading cargo coast of California tying ships to the shore. Lu has her work cut out getting him to trust her enough to record, but a couple of glasses of bourbon at 7:30am seem to help. There’s a sip for Bok Bok, his parrot, too. Roy Orbison plays in the background and the Pirate’s story starts to unfold.

Rikke Houd said: “Johnny O is not just a portrait of a man, but a portrait of a society. It is really well edited with such a natural flow, a sense of texture and depth, of the here and now.”

Alan Hall added: “I was grateful for being given this experience of going to a world I wouldn’t normally choose to and I walked a mile in Johnny’s shoes.”

Photo Courtesy of Lu Olkowski
Photo Courtesy of Lu Olkowski

All finalists will receive Hindenburg editing software. The winner of the £4,000 first prize and the £1,000 runner’s up award will be announced at Sheffield Doc/Fest on 14 June.

Hindeburg Logo

In addition the Awards Committee will also be granting award highly commended prizes of £250 each to two applicants. The first is Eve Conlon from Tyneside, UK for Student Gamblers – where Eve investigates just how bad the rising problem of student gambling from secondary school to university has become. The second was Joel Carnegie from Geelong in Australia for From Music into Silence; the story of Australia’s only fully qualified music-thanatologist, who uses his love of the harp to ease the suffering of the terminally ill. These short reports exemplified sensibility, promise and commitment.

The Funding Award

The judges were excited by the number and the variety of strong stories being proposed from across 5 continents.

Please note; WWF are not publishing the full proposal at this stage to safeguard the applicant’s work. The summaries below are those provided by the finalists themselves. 

1. Burma’s Lost RoyalsAlex Bescoby

Soe Win looks and sounds like an ordinary Burmese man. Had history been different however, this man could have been King of Burma, and spiritual leader to tens of millions of people. 130 years ago King Thibaw – Soe Win’s great-grandfather – became Burma’s final king when toppled by the British Empire and sent into exile in India, where he remains. Burma was plunged into more than a century of conflict, tyranny and isolation. Back in Burma, the King’s descendants were assassinated, imprisoned or – like Soe Win – forced to hide their royal past. In November 2015, Burma emerged from the darkness. In this incredible year of change, can Soe Win reunite his family, and finally return the last King home? This might be the tale of one unusual family, but from it emerges the story of Burma itself.

Image Courtesy of Alex Bescoby
Image Courtesy of Alex Bescoby

2. Inga of The Amazon Jennifer Chiu and Jessica Parsons

Inga of the Amazon is a character-driven documentary about one woman’s fight to save the Amazon rainforest. Director, Jennifer Chiu, follows scientist Lucy Dablin halfway across the earth, to the borders of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, as she convinces a group of  Amazonian cowboys to join her on an experiment that could change the face of cattle farming and save the rainforest—and the livability of our planet – using a single tree with a very special adaptation. With fellow scientists and local experts, Lucy takes Jennifer deep into the rainforest to see up close the plants, animals and people of the Amazon, revealing what life is like in this majestic landscape, and the perilous danger of losing it all.

Image Courtesy of Jennifer Chiu
Image Courtesy of Jennifer Chiu

3. Americaville – Adam James Smith

Americaville is the story of Jackson Hole, China – a replica of the Wyoming ski-town built on the outskirts of Beijing. Having secured long-term access to the town, the film follows several individuals living and working there. Main character Xiangshang, the founder and self-appointed head of the community, dreamed of building a replica of Jackson Hole after falling in love with the sense of freedom and abundance the American West gave him during a trip to the US in 2004. Another, Hua, moved to Jackson Hole in an attempt to live out her interpretation of the American dream, in a bid to find happiness and fulfillment. The third main character, Qi, is a young and ambitious sales agent attempting to sell houses against the odds during a property slump and stock market crash.

Image Courtesy of Adam Smith
Image Courtesy of Adam Smith

4. Mukesh – Ricky Norris

When career UN diplomat, Dr. Mukesh Kapila, learns that the first genocide of the 21st century is happening on his watch, he risks losing his career and life to become the sole advocate for millions – only to reconcile his own universal truth:  that to save one life is to save the world entire.  This recounting of his harrowing time in the pressure cooker of his role in the UN in Sudan, combined with the present day refugee crisis, interweaves for a story that feels completely now. The film follows a refugee family’s present day struggling against Antonov bombing runs and starvation, with the accounts of how Mukesh did everything in his power, at risk of his own life to mitigate this reality, the audience will feel the weight of saving a life.

Image Courtesy of Ricky Norris
Image Courtesy of Ricky Norris

5. Lessons from My Father – Safwon Suleyman

I am just a businessman. None of us have had experience setting up a school before. We were led by our hearts to rebuild the human being – the Syrian human being’  – Shafik Suleyman

Arriving in Istanbul with his wife and young children in 2013, Syrian refugee and former factory owner, Shafik Suleyman, was struck by the number of Syrian children he saw on the street selling tissues, lighters or whatever else they could get their hands on. His country’s future society forced into exile, and now reduced to surviving on the streets. Filmmaker Safwon Suleyman captures his father, Shafik, as he sets about what he calls his ‘personal jihad’; to incubate and foster the growth of Syria’s next generation, ready for their eventual return home. With no experience of education, and lead only by their hearts, Shafik and his team succeed in setting up the largest free Syrian school in Istanbul… but they must now learn how to run it.

Image Courtesy of Safwon Suleyman
Image Courtesy of Safwon Suleyman

The announcement about the biggest prize for a single TV documentary idea for emerging talent under 30 will come after the nominees for the funding award have pitched their idea live to judging panel at the Cutler’s Hall in Sheffield at noon on 14th June. Tickets for this session are available from Doc/Fest. https://sheffdocfest.com. The aim is that the winner will exhibit their completed film at Doc/Fest 2017.

The winners in all three categories will be announced at the Award’s Night at The Crucible, Sheffield, also on 14th June.

We would once again like to thank all of our applicants for their time and stress how greatly appreciated each individual application was. For further information please contact us on info@whickersworldfoundation.com.