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ARU students and staff in spotlight at film festival

Published: 17 October 2022 at 14:00

Rosy McEwen, who plays the lead character Jean, and Professor Catherine Lee

Cambridge Film Festival to show screenings of Roots and Blue Jean later this month

An award-winning film that incorporates the experiences of an Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) professor who taught in secondary schools during the time of the homophobic Section 28 legislation is to feature at the Cambridge Film Festival, alongside a short film produced by ARU students that tells the emotive story of a young woman and her mother living alone in rural isolation.

Blue Jean, which won the People’s Choice Award in the Giornate degli Autori competition at the Venice Film Festival in September, is partly based on the experiences of Professor Catherine Lee and tells of the turmoil of the lead character, played by Rosy McEwen (pictured with Professor Lee), a gym teacher forced to live a double life. 

Also showing at the festival is Roots, a short film produced as part of the BA Film and Television Production course at ARU. Directed by Ugne Jurgiatyte and co-produced by Joana Neves-Brito, Roots tells the story of a young woman and her mother. The young woman wakes one morning to discover her mother has died. It is a moment in time that marks both an ending and the potential of a new beginning.  

Blue Jean explores the impact of Section 28 legislation, introduced in the UK in the 1980s, that banned all teachers from talking about same-sex relationships in school and from being openly gay.

The Act was repealed in 2003, but research by Professor Lee found that Section 28 affected the career prospects and mental health of LGBTQ+ teachers working during that time. 

Professor Lee, Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care at ARU, said:

Blue Jean will resonate with LGBTQ+ people who were students at school during Section 28. Through the film they will get to understand why they did not have LGBTQ+ teacher role models in school, why they never learned about LGBTQ+ people in any area of the school curriculum, and why they never had an adult to talk to at school about their LGBTQ+ identity.”

Blue Jean will be screened at the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge on Wednesday, 26 October (8.30pm) and Thursday, 27 October (8.25pm) as part of the Cambridge Film Festival. The Gala screening on Wednesday, 26 October is being sponsored by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and includes a Q&A with Professor Lee.

Roots will be shown at the Arts Picturehouse on Monday, 24 October (12.50pm) and Wednesday, 26 October (11.50am) as part of the festival’s Shorts & Vulnerability section.

Sophie Jackson, their tutor on the BA Film and Television Production course at ARU, said:

“Drawing on the aesthetics of Soviet-era cinema, the Roots team originally planned to film in a small village in Lithuania where the director’s aunt lives. However, just a week before the crew was due to leave, Russia invaded Ukraine and threw the region into turmoil. In just three weeks, demonstrating problem solving skills and tenacity, this student team found new locations in the Peak District and reorganised the production.   

“It’s great that all the hard work and challenges the students on this production faced have paid off in this beautiful film and now the quality of that work is being recognised by the wider community.”

Roots has also been nominated for the Bill Vinten Guild of Television Camera Professionals University Awards due to the work of student director of photography, Agata Kazmierczak. The winner of the award will be announced at a ceremony in November. Agata was assisted on Roots by camera operators Marc Jackson and Yegor Chmilewsky, and camera assistant Luke Redup.

This year marks the 41st edition of the Cambridge Film Festival, which is the third longest-running film festival in the country. It will showcase a wide-ranging series of films from Thursday, 20 October to Thursday, 27 October at the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge. Bookings are now open for all films at the festival, and further details are available via the festival website https://www.cambridgefilmfestival.co.uk