Youngsters’ John Hurt film project success despite cinema shut down

The education film trust named after Sir John Hurt is based at Cinema City in Norwich.

The education film trust named after Sir John Hurt is based at Cinema City in Norwich. - Credit: Archant

A film project aimed at helping disadvantaged young people in Norfolk set up in the memory of Sir John Hurt has been hailed a success despite the pandemic closing cinemas for a year.

Proving films are not only about being entertained, Positive Cinema, one of the projects set up by the Sir John Hurt Film Trust, uses the power of cinema to build character strengths and values in young people aged 16-24.

The National Lottery and Community Fund backed scheme launched in January 2020 with youngsters watching films Sing Street and Dead Poets Society and discuss key scenes. 

All young people described themselves as having a learning or physical disability, or a mental health condition.

The coronavirus pandemic forced the project to move online but a group of young people used WhatsApp and Zoom to share and discuss film scenes.

Still from Beast, one of the films produced as part of the Positive Cinema project.

Still from one of the films produced as part of the Positive Cinema project. - Credit: Sir John Hurt Film Trust

Ben Carroll, one of the initiators of the project, and scriptwriter Belona Greenwood worked with the participants to write scripts, develop characters and write monologues that were then filmed. 


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Jean Hogg, project manager and filmmaker on the project, said: “We filmed four monologues after casting two local actors to play two characters each. 

“The young people joined via Zoom, some were more active than others in directing the actors, but all enjoyed the process.”

John Hurt launches a £50,000 appeal for the creation of a new accessible education facility at Cinem

John Hurt launching appeal for the creation of a new accessible education facility at Cinema City to benefit local people from Equal Lives Youth Forum. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

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Mr Carroll said the project was “never about making positive films or 'happy films', it's about finding the positive character strengths and values that come with engaging with the medium of film”. 

He added: “It's about putting the phone away, muting distractions and engaging mindfully with what's in front of us, and hopefully learning something in the process!”

Still from one of the films produced as part of the Positive Cinema project.

Still from one of the films produced as part of the Positive Cinema project. - Credit: Sir John Hurt Film Trust

The Sir John Hurt Film Trust, based at Cinema City in Norwich, is named after the distinguished film actor who lived in Norfolk up until his death in 2017.

Sir John Hurt's widow, Lady Anwen, said they hoped the project would get funding to continue. 

Anwen, Lady Hurt, the new artistic director of the Holt Festival. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Anwen, Lady Hurt, hopes the Positive Cinema project will continue. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Ms Hogg said: “It was great to get to know a small group of young people and discuss and make films, especially as this year has been so challenging. 

“I am very proud of the monologues we produced and it was great to be able to offer opportunities to local freelancers and actors.”

The project uses the power of cinema to build character strengths and values in young people aged 16-24.

The project uses the power of cinema to build character strengths and values in young people aged 16-24. - Credit: Sir John Hurt Film Trust


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