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Lecturer's documentary wins Guardian's Best First Film Award

Posted on 12/02/2010

Sleep Furiously wins Guardian's Best First Film Award

Beating off stiff competition from the likes of Charlie Kaufman's ‘Synecdoche, New York’ and Neill Blomkamp's ’ District 9’, ‘Sleep Furiously’, directed by Gideon Koppel of the Department of Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been hailed the winner of the Guardian’s Best First Film Award.

The judging panel consisted of four Guardian film writers – Peter Bradshaw, Catherine Shoard, Xan Brooks, Andrew Pulver – plus ‘Unrelated's director, Joanna Hogg, as the external voice, who describes the film as "a beautiful poem."

It also rated among the top ten films in the Financial Times and New Statesman, among others, and Time Out describes it as the year’s best British film, calling it “unassuming yet artful… wistful, charming, ironic and sad all at once.” Something echoed by Andrew O’Hagan from the Evening Standard who called it “the most beautifully elemental documentary film to have emerged in Britain in over a decade.”

Gideon said, “It is really flattering for this piece of work to have been in contention for this award with films like 'Synecdoche, New York', 'Tulpan', and District 9', let alone win. Perhaps this will inspire a little confidence in 'practice research' at Royal Holloway and beyond.”

The film is set in an isolated farming community in mid Wales, which Gideon describes as “a landscape and population that is changing rapidly as small scale agriculture is disappearing and the generation who inhabited a pre-mechanised world is dying out.”

It has been referred to as a documentary love-letter to Trefeurig, the Welsh farming community in Ceredigion where Gideon grew up, and where his parents found refuge from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

It revolves around the monthly visits of a mobile library van which travels from farm to farm, collecting and delivering books. This van becomes both literally and metaphorically a vehicle of stories which takes viewers on a poetic journey to a life of beautiful landscapes, herding sheep and rituals and traditions.

Gideon was very much influenced by his conversations with the Austrian writer Peter Handke, in developing a lyrical and observational approach to story telling. ‘Sleep Furiously’ is also noteworthy for being the first and only feature-length film with a soundtrack by cult musician-composer Aphex Twin.

To read the Guardian’s story in full visit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/feb/11/sleep-furiously-wins-best-first-film


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