BU academic uncovers Stonehenge truths in BBC documentary

Dr. Miles Russell, an academic from Bournemouth University (BU), has given comment on Stonehenge during a BBC documentary, Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath.

In the programme, archaeologists take a high tech approach to discovering the history of Stonehenge and have started to explore the surrounding areas using 21st century technology to study over ten thousand years of human development.

Dr. Russell’s research has discovered that flint found underground in Grime Graves were also found in the form of prehistoric tools when the digging up of the surrounding areas of the Stonehenge.

The mining of the flint was an incredibly complex and dangerous process with the mines reaching sizes of 12 and a half metres deep. Russell said during the documentary: “These mines are quite an achievement when you think the people excavating these mines were only using stone and bone tools.”

Russell, who is also director of Regnum and co-director of the Durotriges Project, has given evidence that shows these prehistoric communities who built the mines were capable of large scale and complicated projects, furthering the discoveries of how the Stonehenge was created.

The programme is available to watch again on BBC iPlayer.

By Charlotte Cranny-Evans

Charlotte is a graduate of Budmouth College in Weymouth, who is working at Bournemouth University in the Press and PR Department. She joined BU on a Sir Samuel Mico Scholarship, which provides 10 students from the college with work experience for four weeks over the summer.

Documentaries can tell us more about AIDS than Hollywood

By Christopher Pullen, Senior Lecturer in Media Theory, The Media School

Documentaries have the power to tell the stories with the most impact. They describe the “real” world, present “real” problems. Despite this, it is drama and Hollywood film that reaches the masses. As Susan Sarandon tells us in the documentary The Celluloid Closet (1995), “Hollywood is the keeper of the dreams”.

Recently the Hollywood dream has again tackled AIDS and issues in the pharmaceutical industry. Dallas Buyers Club (2014) won many Academy Awards, echoing the effect of Philadelphia 20 years ago.

Although Philadelphia made some impact, with Tom Hanks winning an Academy Award, filmmakers haven’t tended to want to engage with the idea of an AIDS hero. The notable exception might be the biopic Pedro (2009), which told the inspirational story of openly gay Cuban AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. But this film received little attention, and it was the documentary version of Pedro’s life in the reality TV series The Real World (1994) that seemed to offer the lasting legacy.

The recent success of Dallas Buyers Club hopefully signals a change in giving these issues airtime. But despite this, it is in independent documentary film that we see real exploration of the matter. Films such as Common Threads (1989), Absolutely Positive (1991), Silverlake Life (1993) and the more recent How to Survive a Plague (2012), have looked at the issue from the perspective of gay men, the effect of AIDS on their lives, and the strategies they embarked upon in order to obtain better drugs.

A still from How to Survive a Plague.
David France

Then there is a separate documentary strand, of films such as Shouting Silent (2002), Dying For Drugs (2005) and Orphans of Nkandla (2005). These films mostly focus on children in the third world, and the denial of wide scale treatment influenced by the global impact of the American pharmaceutical industry maintaining high drug costs, and consequently assuring profits for their shareholders. This is the focus of Dylan Mohan Gray’s new documentary, Fire in the Blood.

This offers an up-to-date discussion of the effect that AIDS still has on the third world, revealing a continuing concern regarding the global costs of AIDS drugs. It concentrates on the story of Yusef Hamied, head of the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla. The film reveals his impact on the establishment of the availability of lower cost generic AIDS drugs in the developing world.

Despite AIDS drug costs being reduced in 2001 from US$15,000 a year to US$350 dollars a year for the Triple ARV (antiretroviral) cocktail, the film reveals that more recently, the global pharmaceutical industry redefined drug patent laws through the World Trade Organisation. This in effect potentially limits any future availability of new AIDS drugs at subsidised prices.

Fire In The Blood.
Dylan Mohan Gray

So the film is about much more than the struggle for access to antiretroviral (ARV) medication. I spoke to Dylan Mohan Gray, the director. He said:

This serves as the starting point for a much more expansive conversation about the entire system of developing and commercialising drugs, and the overall problem of access to essential medicine in the face of that system. It is monopoly pricing which causes these cataclysms, and also incentivises companies to focus their resources on developing and selling products which only occasionally address serious public health priorities.

Hopefully, this contemporary focus should attract mainstream viewers.

Fire In The Blood.
Dylan Mohan Gray

A different picture emerges in the documentary How to Survive a Plague. This film covers ACT UP, a revolutionary group mostly headed by gay men in the 80s and 90s. This revolutionary group fought for the availability of AIDS drugs to the masses. How to Survive a Plague is told through archival footage and contemporary content.

In some ways a Hollywood narrative suspense formula is used, foregrounding the story of a lost generation, revealing skills of survival, resonating with the ideal of American pioneer culture, in fighting back, and winning terrain. But How to Survive a Plague has not made much impact in mainstream culture, even though it was nominated for an Academy Award.

It’s not that documentary can’t reach the masses. The problem lies in how it represents those afflicted. Fire in the Blood confronts the issue in terms of the developing world, whereas How to Survive a Plague mostly in terms of gay men. And head-on conceptions of marginalised groups of people can’t flourish in Hollywood dreams.

Films such as Dallas Buyers Club will reach out, and tell part of the story, though presenting a “biased” entertaining dream. But it is documentary films like How to Survive a Plague and Fire in The Blood that reveal the nightmare. They more effectively connect with consciousness, and our desire for coherence, and better understanding. This is why they are so important, and must be seen.

Fire in the Blood is available on DVD on 24 March 2014, and How to Survive a Plague on 31 March 2014.

The Conversation

Christopher Pullen does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

BU TV Production graduates up for prestigious industry awards

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A number of recent graduates from BU’s BA (Hons) Television Production course have been shortlisted in the prestigious Royal Television Society (RTS) Student Awards.

Four BU 2013 graduates have been nominated in the Best Factual, Best Entertainment and Best Fictional categories for the RTS Southern awards, which take place at Winchester Guildhall on 21st February.

The Awards celebrate the best in emerging talent in the South, and highlights the quality of content produced by the region’s students.

Beth Lamont and Ben Witt have been shortlisted in the Best Entertainment Category – Beth for children’s cookery show Mini Munchies and Ben for music video, Letting You Go, which features two ‘flycycle’ enthusiasts, separated when one of their bikes breaks down.

Ben said: “The only way for them to be reunited is to hunt down the rare replacement light bulbs that power the bike. It’s quite a surreal, fun film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

“It feels great to be shortlisted for an RTS Award and it’s testament to the amazingly talented cast and crew that helped bring the project alive.”

Beth’s Mini Munchies programme is aimed at pre-school children and shows a mother and daughter cooking together.

“Similar to a parent hiding veggies in their kid’s mashed potatoes, I tried to sneak some basic cookery and nutritional education into a (hopefully) entertaining piece that encourages families to swap the Wii for a wok,” she said.

“It’s a real honour for Mini Munchies to have been recognised by such a well-regarded institution, especially as the film was such great fun to shoot and edit alongside the cast and crew. The shortlisting is a credit to all who worked so hard on it.”

Matt Cotton has been shortlisted in the Best Factual category, for his documentary Stitch by Stitch, which shows how women in rural Kenya have been empowered by working for a grass-roots business called Kenana Knitters.

Matt, who went out to Kenya to work on the film with fellow student Oliver Clubb, said: “I was motivated to make this film as I’m really passionate about social justice.

“My mother grew up in Kenya, and I have visited multiple times. This is how I knew about the Kenana Knitters, the grass roots business that the film is immersed in.

“It’s great to be nominated for the award, mainly due to the fact that people will get to watch the film.”

Another 2013 BATV graduate Gulliver Moore has been shortlisted in the Best Fiction category for film Walking Against the Wind, a surreal fantasy drama set and partially shot in Paris.

“The story follows a young boy’s struggle as his parents refuse to communicate with him in any way but mime,” said Gulliver.

“His rebellion against their lifestyle leads him on a journey to discover what is really important in life.”

Gulliver added that it was “wonderful” to be shortlisted for an RTS Student Award.

“That the film has been recognised by the RTS is a credit to the immensely talented and dedicated team of people involved in the project.”

Nick Bamford, Programme Leader of the BA (Hons) Television Production degree course at BU, said that the team were proud of all the graduates who have been shortlisted for this year’s awards.

“The staff who teach on BA TV Production are thrilled to see such a good representation of our graduates’ work in the RTS awards.

“It’s a fitting testament to the creativity and hard work of our students, and a shining example to those who follow them of what they can aspire to.”

“We offer all nominees our very best wishes and very much hope we will also be seeing some winners.”

BU students win all-expenses paid trip to Thailand to film documentary

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Two teams of TV Production students from Bournemouth University will be flown out to Thailand to make documentaries, after reaching the finals of an international film competition.

Final year students Lydia Harrison and Callum Cooper and first years Mark Benjamin and Anastasia Stankovsky are all on the BA (Hons) Television Production course at BU and will be the only representatives from the UK in the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge.

Teams from around the world will be flown out to Thailand to make documentaries about different aspects of the country for the competition.

They will all be screened at a red carpet event during the Thailand International Destination Film Festival, and the team behind the winning documentary will receive the equivalent of around £23,000 in prize money.

Lydia, 21, said the experience of going to Thailand will be great, even if they don’t win.

“We feel so lucky to have this opportunity and to be going to represent Britain at all,” she said.

“It’s a once in a lifetime experience and I’m excited to meet people and find out more about Thailand. It will be a great chance to network with other filmmakers from around the world.”

More than 800 teams applied for the chance to take part in the competition, which was also open to professional filmmakers, but only 100 have got through to the finals in Thailand – with just five teams from Europe.

They will fly out to Thailand on March 30, and will have to film and edit their documentaries using their own equipment for the festival screening, which takes place just before they fly back on April 11.

The teams have been provided with flights, hotel accommodation in Bangkok and a budget of around £700 for their films, as well as a local assistant and production advice.

Callum, 23, said that the experience would be stressful, but they were determined to make the most of their time in Thailand.

“It’s our first time on a really professional shoot with a big budget,” he said.

“We have got control and have this large budget, so there is that pressure on us to get it in on time. We know we will be thrown into the deep end but we are not going to let it stop us having a great experience.

“Our first priority is getting the documentary done as professionally as we can, but there is going to be some time to enjoy being out there.”

Both of the teams from BU are filming near Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.

Lydia and Callum, who both live in Winton while studying, will be filming a self-sustaining hill tribe in the village of Ban Mae Sa Mai, and a project there which helps them rebuild the surrounding forest.

Mark and Anastasia, who are both in Halls of Residence in Poole, will be filming at the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, focusing on the work being done to prevent poaching and increase the number of tigers in the wild.

Mark, 22, said: “I’ve never really travelled before, so it’s going to be a completely new experience for me. I think it’s going to be life-changing and is really going to help us a lot with gaining placements and contacts.

“The Media School have been really supportive and everyone is really proud and happy for us.” Anastasia, 19, added: “I didn’t think we would have an experience like this in our first year of university.

“I was so shocked when I found out we’d got through out of all the hundreds of applications – and that the other UK team is from our course as well. It’s unbelievable.”

BU graduates celebrate Oscar and BAFTA success

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A number of Bournemouth University (BU) graduates celebrated nominations and wins at high-profile award ceremonies this year.

Graduates of the National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) in BU’s Media School worked on the visual effects for blockbusters nominated at both the 2013 Oscars and BAFTAs.

Steve Twist, who completed a BA in Computer Visualisation and Animation and an MSc in Computer Animation and Visual Effects at BU, worked on the visual effects for Life of Pi – which won both the Oscar and BAFTA in the Visual Effects category.

Steve worked for California-based Rhythm & Hues Studios as a Character Rigger – and helped create the skeletal structure, muscles and body, and face controls for the computer-generated animals on the lifeboat during the film.

“It was an amazing experience to work on Life of Pi,” said Steve, who graduated in 2010.

“The artists at Rhythm & Hues are an incredible group of people, and it was quite a journey to see the film develop.

“When I saw the movie in the movie theatre, I was very proud to have played my small part to bringing the characters of the movie to life.”

Unfortunately, the company recently filed for bankruptcy protection, so Steve said winning the awards was a “bittersweet moment”.

“It’s amazing that our work was so well received, both by audiences and by critics,” he said. “But, needless to say, I probably felt every emotion possible during those few days.”

Meanwhile, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, who co-founded VFX company Double Negative and received an Honorary Doctorate from BU in 2012, and graduate Andy Lockley, who completed an MA in Digital Effects in 2000, were BAFTA-nominated for their visual effects work in Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.

Emma Clifton, who completed a BA (Hons) Computer Visualisation and Animation degree in 2005 was among BU graduates and ex-lecturers who worked on the Oscar and BAFTA-nominated visual effects for The Hobbit.

And two 2010 graduates of the BA (Hons) Computer Visualisation and Animation degree course at BU worked on the Oscar-nominated visual effects for Snow White and the Huntsman.

Dante Harbridge-Robinson was part of a team at BlueBolt Ltd. who helped design and create the castle in the film, while Daniel Georgiou worked on it as a matchmove artist for Double Negative.

Daniel, who now works as a lighting technical director, also worked on visual effects for Les Miserables and Skyfall, which were both nominated for numerous high-profile awards.

It wasn’t just visual effects that BU graduates received recognition for. BA (Hons) Television Production graduate Teddy Leifer was part of the team nominated for Best Documentary for a feature he produced called The Invisible War.

Teddy, who graduated in 2005, was executive producer on the film, which explores the topic of sexual assault in the US military.

Stephen Jukes, Dean of the Media School, said: “We live and breathe the industry in the Media School and we are extremely proud of our graduates who go on – which increasing success – to carry off some of the most prestigious awards.

“I believe we offer a unique combination of academic learning and professional practice which sets students up extremely well to flourish in the rapidly changing and highly competitive media world.”