Carers UK’s Two Sides of the Story, named Charity Film of the Year

“Nothing has the power to open hearts and change minds more than film” – rousing words to open this year’s Charity Film Awards ceremony from Simon Burton, the founder of the Awards.  Now in their fourth year, the usual gala evening was replaced by some virtual razzmatazz from Burton’s living room, complete with voice of God (aka David), an upbeat musician singing the names of nominees, and a magician on call to reveal the winners. Each from their respective homes.

A key aim of these awards is to galvanise support for the charities themselves. Unusually for awards in the film and television industries, there is no charge to the charities to enter their films – and 400 of them “started this journey” as Burton put it. All the charities are encouraged to stimulate support themselves and this year 100,000 people voted – and two million additional views were generated, as Burton enthusiastically announced at the awards ceremony on 21 April. 

The People’s Choice awards were announced at the end of the evening (more of which below), while the ceremony itself focused on the awards decided by the panel of expert judges, which included the BFI National Archive’s Senior Curator of Non-Fiction, Patrick Russell.

In a novel variation on familiar awards designations, these categories are based on the size of the charity’s annual turnover, ranging from under £10k to a whopping £100m+ (I was surprised to see the large number of charities in this latter category).

At the modest end of the scale, the winner of the ‘0-£10K turnover’ award category was a touchingly simple short film, We Are Sunshine People, which tells the story of the charity Sunshine People and its mission. Its message about performing a 10-minute act of kindness to a stranger – instead of offering money to the charity — is novel and powerful:

My highlights included The Creature, a strangely powerful sci-fi-influenced drama campaigning against plastic pollution. It breaks with many of the familiar tropes of charity films – there’s no emotive music (though there is a cute moment with a young child on the beach).  As the title hints, it’s about a hitherto unidentified and mysterious sea creature…:

The British Heart Foundation took the gold in the category for the largest charities with its warm and entertaining It Starts with your Heart, featuring a great performance by a cheeky young lad in the starring role.

This is one of the relatively few of the nominated films that has been shown on television – most campaigning films, in the charity sector and elsewhere, find their main audience online.

The winner of the People’s Choice was Dear Humans, made for Compassion in World Farming, featuring Joanna Lumley in emphatic campaigning fettle.

The Charity Film of the Year was decided by a combination of public and jurors’ votes – and went to Two Sides of the Story – which highlights the often hidden impact felt by carers, and the emotional toll that caring can take on the millions of unpaid carers in the UK. Its potent yet in some ways straightforward format allows it to pack an unexpected emotional punch and reveal a truth that is easily overlooked:

It was made in partnership with British Gas, continuing a long tradition of the gas industry’s support of documentary films often with a very light self-promotional touch – exemplified in the classic film Housing Problems (1935) and the campaigning film Homes for Workers (1939) about housing in Liverpool available to view on BFI Player

All the films celebrated by these awards are also continuing a wider tradition: using film as a tool to achieve a wide range of aims, from fundraising to the potentially hugely powerful goal of changing how individuals think and ultimately their behaviour and the priorities of society. I heartily recommend watching the above and more of them on the CFA website.

Originally published: 30 April 2020