Supported by nurturing elders in schools, film clubs and even local therapy groups, directors and producers as young as eight were celebrated at the annual First Light Awards this week. A red carpet and dash of celebrity judges and presenters including Naomie Harris, Dexter Fletcher, Ralf Little and Jodie Whittaker transformed the event into a bonafide ceremony where some wonderful innovation was applauded.
Winner of Best Film for Under 11s was Granny Mac’s Meringues, an undeniably charming part-plasticine animated tale about a glamorous milliner mixing up a hat box and a cake box just before the Royal Wedding. The prizewinners showed promising professionalism talking to press, thanking their teachers and parents, and possessing skills that their presenter Sam Claflin was clearly enamoured by, stating “I was twice their age when I started in film.” Current Bond girl Naomie Harris, who started in the business at the tender age of nine, agreed – “I think it’s really important to get involved with stuff like this young, it helps you get into the profession easier as an adult.” And her one tip for the young filmmakers? “Persistence. You’ll always hear a lot of no’s, and have a lot of doors shut in your face – but eventually someone will say yes. Something like this increases kids’ confidence.”
Actor and producer Jason Maza expressed how filmmaking opportunities for children made for a genuinely creative process, with an abundance of ideas flourishing freely and copiously. He presented the Best Animation Award to The Stammurai, whose makers belong to a speech therapy group with the help of Eviltwin Artworks.
The most inspiring thing about the event was the maturity of young filmmakers voicing their concerns on difficult topics to raise national awareness, compassion and change. Integrate Bristol produced Silent Scream, a well-informed and highly articulate docudrama about female genital mutilation. The creators spoke about the religious and cultural arguments for and against FGM and the need for its higher criminal repercussions of those involved in the act in order for its abolishment. It also raised enlightening issues such as the conflict within families on their own daughters’ circumcision; most are unaware of the maternal dominance in carrying out FGM, and that generally it is females over males that enforce its practice. It also opened eyes to the danger of some 20,000 girls in the UK who are each year at risk of being illegally operated on.
The fact-heavy expose nature of Silent Scream (which scooped the Young Voice Award) came as a welcomed surprise to all at the First Light Awards, particularly to its award presenter Rupert Friend. Drafted in at last minute, he hadn’t yet seen the film but was taken aback at the maturity with which such a troubling matter was handled by the team, and seemed intrigued and enamoured by their clear-cut activism. Asked if he thinks its important coming from young people, Friend commented: “It’s fascinating that it’s being made at all, let alone from teenagers. It’s a barbaric practice that always needs to be addressed.”
What was beautiful to see was a merging of playground creativity, youngsters impassioned purely and completely by the medium of film. Sponsors included YouTube, Sony Pictures, The Grierson Trust, BAFTA, EON Productions, Filmclub, Pinewoof, Smuggler and Ingenous.
For more info on the First Light Awards, visit firstlightonline.co.uk/fl-awards.