AHRC Research in Film Awards


2021 winners

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is delighted to announce the winners of the Research in Film Awards 2021, which remains the only film awards dedicated to celebrating and recognising arts and humanities research through film.

We received a record number of entries this year, and our prestigious judging panel whittled them down to a shortlist of 25 films. The winning films below represent the best films made during the course of, as result of, or that are inspired by arts and humanities research. Many of them are available to watch in full online right now, including short clips and trailers, we hope you enjoy them.

Best Research Film of the Year

This award is for the very best film made as an output or by-product of cutting-edge arts and humanities research. It brings new research to wider attention and highlights the value and importance of arts and humanities research.

The Art of Peace, Medellín


On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube.

‘The Art of Peace, Medellín’, submitted by Birte Vogel (University of Manchester) shows how marginalised youth in the city of Medellín, Colombia, have responded to ongoing conflict through arts to create alternatives to violence.

In recent years, arts-based approaches to peacebuilding have gained traction as an emerging area of research and practice, demonstrating that community-led arts projects, which give agency to local people to change their society, have an important impact upon peace formation in various stages of conflict.

‘The Art of Peace, Medellín’ is based on fieldwork carried out in Colombia, including participatory workshops involving local artists from Medellín that enabled them to tell their stories to a global audience and to challenge the stereotypes of the city as depicted in Netflix series such as ‘Narcos’.

The team behind ‘The Art of Peace, Medellín’:

  • a film by: Si Mitchell and Charlie Miller
  • production company: The Mono Grande
  • production: Ruth Daniel (In Place of War), Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean (University of Manchester), Roberta McCaughan (In Place of War)
  • translation: Camilla Robinson, Miguel Barreto De Sousa Henriques, Nicolas Palacio, Oriana Garzon, Pamela Ospina
  • project research conducted for the Colombian case study: Teresa Ó Brádaigh Bean (University of Manchester), Miguel Barreto De Sousa Henriques (Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Bogota, Colombia), Birte Vogel (University of Manchester).

The judges said:

“This is an excellent film. The cinematography is superb, the research clear and the messages powerful. It testifies to the important work being done by the research team and yet is a standalone piece of compelling viewing, telling important stories.”

Best Doctoral or Early Career Film of the Year

This award is for the best film made by doctoral students and early career researchers in the arts and humanities. Like the Best Research Film of the Year award, it brings new research to wider attention and highlights the value and importance of arts and humanities research.

Drawing on Autism


‘Drawing on Autism’, submitted by Alex Widdowson (Queen Mary University of London) and also nominated for the Best Animated Film of the Year, was created as part of a practice-based PhD and the Wellcome Trust-funded ‘Autism through Cinema’ project.

Widdowson’s research is an investigation into the ethical issues associated with the representation of autism in animated documentaries. Despite being neurodivergent, Widdowson is not autistic, so a significant theme in the research is exploring if and how one can reliably, productively, and ethically represent another group.

Created by a non-autistic filmmaker, representing an autistic participant, ‘Drawing on Autism’ embraces and showcases the importance of collaborative methods to ensure that neurodivergent subjects can feedback on the ways in which they are portrayed.

The team behind ‘Drawing on Autism’:

  • directed, produced, and animated: Alex Widdowson
  • featuring an anonymous autistic participant
  • sound design and music: Vicky Freund
  • additional animation: Ciara Kerr
  • additional art direction: Dan Castro.

The judges said:

“This is such a fascinating story and told with originality and reflection. A project that properly reflects on practice and is conscientious in considering the ethical obligations of representation.”

Best Climate Emergency Film of the Year

This award is for the best film that explores how arts and humanities research relates to the climate emergency. It shows how arts and humanities research gives us the tools, as individuals and as society at large, to understand environmental change, to adapt and be resilient in the face of it, and to communicate the threats to our planet.

Newland: New Vision for a Wilder Future


On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube.

Farmers play a significant part in shaping and maintaining the countryside, but their voices are often unheard.

‘Newland: New Vision for a Wilder Future’, created by Suzie Cross and Dave Lynch, weaves together interviews with farmers Andrew and Ted Hughes, to explore how the agricultural community is moving towards less intensive methods of farming and adopting more sustainable practices.

As science evolves, increasing our understanding of soil health and restoration, and how changes in food production can help to restore natural habitats, we should recognise the critical role that farmers play.

‘Newland’ aims to dismantle the stereotypes assigned to farmers, reminding us that they care deeply about the environment and their impact on nature. It also encourages greater respect for the land from the public.

The team behind ‘Newland: New Vision for a Wilder Future’:

  • directed, filmed and produced by: Suzie Cross and Dave Lynch
  • cinematography: Zsolt Sandor
  • aerial footage: Steve Lord
  • sound design: Martin Robinson.

This film was created as part of the ‘Land Lines: Tipping Points’ project at the University of Leeds, led by Professor Graham Huggan and Dr Pippa Marland.

The judges said:

“There’s a great deal of artistic and technical skill represented, but also a serious research intent around ‘giving voice’. A real sense of creative and intellectual conviction.”

Best Animated Film of the Year

This category recognises films that have creatively used animation to tell stories or explore ideas in arts and humanities research.


black and white photos and sepia maps pinned to a cork board

Click on the above image to view the TIMELINE video on Vimeo.

‘TIMELINE’, submitted by Osbert Parker (National Film & TV School), produced in collaboration with the Migration Museum, and also nominated for the Inspiration Award, charts 400 years of British emigration, one of the largest movements of people in modern history.

Today, some 75 million people self-identify as having British ancestry, greater than the population of the UK. But while immigration dominates debates, Britain’s emigration story is often overlooked.

This film uses humanitarian and historical research to explore the reasons why people left and the impact of this mass movement on the world from the first English settlement in North America, to Child Migration Schemes to the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht and beyond Brexit.

The team behind ‘TIMELINE’:

  • director, animator, producer: Osbert Parker
  • sound design: Rob Szeliga
  • head of creative content (The Migration Museum): Aditi Anand
  • curator (The Migration Museum): Sue McAlpine
  • project manager (The Migration Museum): Andrew Steeds
  • head of communications (The Migration Museum): Matthew Plowright
  • design assistant: Fiona Pitkin (Colorbloom)
  • art department assistant: Zola Parker
  • archive researcher: Debbie Meniru
  • photographer: Ethan Parker.

The judges said:

“Extremely sophisticated use of rhythm, sound, texture and archival documents to tell a story of emigration from the UK. Superb in every way!”

Inspiration Award

This award is for the best film that is inspired by arts and humanities research. Unlike the other categories, this award is open to everyone in the UK: you might have made a film after visiting an arts festival, a museum exhibition, or though enjoying books, plays, performances, or something else that has fired your imagination. The winning entry will share the importance of arts and humanities research to our lives.

The Wound is Where the Light Enters


‘The Wound is Where the Light Enters’, created by Dheeraj Akolkar (Vardo Films) is inspired by a docu-dance performance titled ‘Otino Onywalo Ilum’ created by fifteen children born of war rapes in Northern Uganda and directed by Darrel Toulon.

This project drew on the research at University of Birmingham which explored the life courses of children born of war rape. The changing nature of war, the strategic use of rape as a weapon of war and increased conflict-related forced migration have led to rising numbers of children born of war rapes.

This film throws a light on the pain, stigma and discrimination faced by these children, and it shows paths for healing.

The team behind ‘The Wound is Where the Light Enters’:

  • director, producer: Dheeraj Akolkar
  • production companies: Vardo Films, Grassroots Stories (UK)
  • production partners: The Alpha Group (Austria), The University of Birmingham (UK), The University of Leipzig (Germany), FAPAD (Uganda)
  • cinematographer: Ezequiel Romero Garcia
  • first assistant camera: Racheal Mambo
  • voice over: Atala Mercy
  • film edited by: Tushar Ghogale
  • unit production manager: Babra Otuku
  • film Inspired by the performance of: Otino Onywalo Ilum
  • Otino Onywalo IIum created by: Darrel Toulon
  • special thanks: Dr. Sabine Lee, Dr. Heide Glaesmer, Dr. Eunice Apio.

The judges said:

“This is an outstanding film. The wounds that each child has experienced become a basis in the film for empowerment in coming together performatively. The director brilliantly captures the dynamic of the group and the workshop and gives voice to the young adults in an accessible documentary that leaves the viewer moved and inspired by acts of collective (and individual) expression.”

Watch the full awards ceremony livestream online

The Research in Film Awards 2021 were presented at a special online livestream event on 1 December 2021. You can watch the entire ceremony online.


On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube.

The ceremony was a prestigious affair and was attended by members of the press, academics, film industry professionals, and the cast and crew behind the 25 films that are shortlisted, as well as anyone who is interested in arts and humanities research and film.

The event offered a chance for talented and emerging filmmakers to step into the limelight and get their work noticed by a wider audience. The winners of each category will receive a trophy and £5,000 prize money to put towards their future filmmaking endeavours.

Last updated: 21 June 2022

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