When my friend and project partner, Tim Allsop, approached me with a concept for a research, film, and theatre exploration of queer rural life, I was thrilled. Tim, himself, comes from a rural upbringing and had begun reflecting creatively on the impact of that context on his identity and understanding of queerness – which he explores in a beautiful series of essays on Medium.
We decided to combine ethnographic and oral history interview techniques with multi-media storytelling. Tim adapted our first set of interviews into a play (The Stars are Brighter Here), and we collaborated with videographer Suzy Shepherd and musician Conor Molloy to edit some of those interviews into a documentary film, which was selected this year for the BFI Flare Festival.
In this film, we meet interviewees who live in and around rural Suffolk and represent several different generations of LGBTQIA+ experiences and activism. They reflect on how being queer and rural has changed over time, a push and pull of connection and disconnection, as social progress has meant that queerness exists more openly in the countryside.
More on this project, and the film (including opportunities to view it) coming soon… watch this space. 🙂
I get to do a lot of cool things in my role at the Oxford Human Rights Hub – and this is one of them. We partnered with the World Health Organization to produce a five-part documentary series on sexual and reproductive health rights across the globe. Last year, I got to film in Oxford, Geneva, and Nairobi alongside Suzy Shepherd, a great videographer we hired for the project. We sweated it out in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on what must have been the hottest day ever in Switzerland, and we spent hours observing the rhythms of everyday life in the waiting rooms of reproductive health clinics in Nairobi. I love switching gears from interviewing for research to interviewing for film (or podcasts) because it stretches the translational muscles that enable us to communicate complex ideas to wider audiences. I hope we’ve done some of that translating effectively here.
I stepped back from this particular project a few months ago, and Suzy has brilliantly and beautifully taken it over the finish line. I’m delighted to share Shaping the Future – a mini documentary series exploring sexual and reproductive health rights in the contexts of school and the workplace, as well as looking in detail at how to realise the right to safe childbirth, and access to abortion. Later on, there will also be an episode on Universal Health Care in Kenya. Shaping the Future series take a comparative perspective and closely examines how the strong moral and legal imperatives of human rights can be given detailed substance by grounding them in local context and making sexual and reproductive health a reality to each individuals’ lived experiences.
Check out the videos on the Oxford Human Rights Hub (or WHO) YouTube channels, and linked below.