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Join me in making my first fiction film - a short for Channel 4 about an Aboriginal man's encounter with Victorian Britain.
Join me in making my first fiction film - a short for Channel 4 about an Aboriginal man's encounter with Victorian Britain.
Join me in making my first fiction film - a short for Channel 4 about an Aboriginal man's encounter with Victorian Britain.
140 backers pledged £5,217 to help bring this project to life.

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"They Live in Forests..." - a short film

£5,217

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Hello backers. Thanks for joining me. Allow me to tell you a short story… For as long as I can remember, fiction film has been my love. My obsession. It was my escape, as a child and teenager, from the chaos around me. I made two fiction films in 1998 and 2000, but since 2004, I’ve been dedicated to directing documentaries and I left fiction for a while.

In February of this year I was awarded a commission by Channel 4 to write and direct a short fiction film. The programme is designed to support the Clio Barnards and Steve McQueens of the future - artists working in film who can bring their artistic approach, experimentation and bold vision into narrative fiction. I’m finally ready to do what I’ve wanted to do since I was 8 years old. And I hope you can support me.

By backing this film, you’ll be supporting an ambitious and challenging project that will bring together a group of extremely dedicated creatives and artists to tell a story about the legacy of British colonialism and Aboriginal Australians. You’ll also be supporting my first move into experimental fiction that will take me on a new path in my career.

Along with producer Maria Caruana Galizia in Newcastle, we’ve already made some excellent progress. We have a finished script, thanks to the help of mentor and legendary script editor Kate Leys. We have a lead actor, the phenomenally talented Tom E. Lewis, and a location - the beautiful library at Newcastle’s Mining Institute.

Tom E. Lewis, the film's lead actor
Tom E. Lewis, the film's lead actor


The Mining Institude Library, our location
The Mining Institude Library, our location

We’ve done extensive research and collected visual references to work with our set designer Lesley Rose and Cinematographer Emma Dalesman. Now all we have to do is shoot the film. While the commission comes with a small production grant, this is - as I hope you’ll see from the synopsis below - a very ambitious film, and we’ll need a little more money to make it as good as it can be. That’s where you come in…

Here’s a brief synopsis of the film.

They Live in Forests, They Are Extremely Shy tells the fictionalised story of an Aboriginal man invited to London for the Colonial Exhibition of 1886. He's a reluctant ambassador, negotiating for the safety of his people and ancestral land as the British Empire continues to colonise and brutalise indigenous Australians.

Woollarawarre Bennelong, an Aboriginal Australian kidnapped in 1789 and later brought to England. His story is one of the inspirations for our film.
Woollarawarre Bennelong, an Aboriginal Australian kidnapped in 1789 and later brought to England. His story is one of the inspirations for our film.

His host, an Englishman, shows him around the exhibition. He takes the Aboriginal man to one of the larger exhibits: the stuffed body of another Aboriginal man, dressed as a warrior and in a glass display case. The Aboriginal man is confronted with the horrific site, and must decide at that moment what to do. He doesn’t move. He is transfixed. He looks back briefly at the Englishman, torn between his desire to continue his role as an ambassador, and his desire to express his horror, sadness and rage. The Aboriginal man makes a bold decision, knowing he can never again return to his role as the “good native”. In an act of tenderness and defiance, he breaks open the glass case and climbs in. He cradles the body in his lap, crying. He is heartbroken, mourning, and comforting the body. He looks up, momentarily, and sees a crowd gathering to stare. He continues to cradle the body.

The Colonial Exhibition of 1886. This event is one of the inspirations for our film.
The Colonial Exhibition of 1886. This event is one of the inspirations for our film.

This film is based on extensive research I've conducted into the history of "human zoos" and colonial exhibitions. Our film closely follows the protocols for working with Indigenous Australians as published by Screen Australia, and I’ve been developing the story with a cultural consultant as well as the film’s lead actor, Tom E. Lewis, who is himself a consultant and “Ceremony Man”. The title is taken from an advert for one of these "human zoos" at the St Louis World Fair in 1904.

The film attempts to understand not only how those who suffered under colonialism perceived these exhibitions, but also how the drivers of British colonialism could simultaneously romanticise, admire and brutalise the people they colonised.

Australian Aboriginal men in chains at Wyndham prison, 1902
Australian Aboriginal men in chains at Wyndham prison, 1902

This film imagines an encounter between these two worlds, based on several historical examples of the real subjects of human zoos. References include the experiences of the Congolese Ota Benga, brought to New York as a novelty in 1906; Saartjie Baartman, known as Hottentot Venus; Bennelong, an Australian Aboriginal kidnapped and brought to London in 1792; and Minik Wallace, the Inuit child brought to the US in 1897.

Here’s a little more about the commission and future of the film.

This is a 3-minute film selected for broadcast on the Channel 4 strand Random Acts. The project is supported by a grant and development programme from The Artist’s Cut, in collaboration with Northern Film + Media, the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival and Active Northumberland and these partners are already providing a lot of help in releasing the film. As well as a guaranteed broadcast on Channel 4, the film will also live on Channel 4’s Random Acts website. It has a guaranteed premier at Berwick Festival & Media Arts Festival (one of the country’s leading film arts festivals) in September, and a further guaranteed screening at York’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival, a BAFTA-qualifying festival, in November. Following those screenings, we plan to tour the film internationally through the network of short film festivals, including SXSW, Palm Springs, Sydney Film Festival and Locarno. We hope this festival circuit, and any recognition and press coverage we receive will help give us a strong basis to finally move into creative feature films.

So, what will my money be used for?

Making a short film of this nature is a huge undertaking. Our ambition is to create a film that is merited for its artistic achievements as well as its powerful story. This is why we are looking to raise additional funds to pay for the following items: 

ART DEPARTMENT: Replicating the scale and aesthetic of a Victorian Exhibition is a huge challenge for our team. We have sourced authentic Victorian clothes from theatres in the North East to dress our actors, and we’re planning to hire and build display pieces that will ensure we recreate the look of a Victorian exhibition. The total cost for art department and costume amounts to £1100

EQUIPMENT: In order to capture the scale and grandeur of the location and exhibition, we are looking to hire in specialist lighting, camera and grips equipment. This amounts to a total of £920

POST PRODUCTION: Our ambition is to create a film that looks and sounds great, which is why we are raising extra funds to pay for the services of a post production house who can carry out colour correction and grading, and a 5.1 surround sound mix. This costs £960 

FILM FESTIVALS: We’re really excited about making this film and want to share this story with as many people as possible. The remaining money we raise will be spent on film festival entry fees and screenings. 

A little something about the filmmaking team.

Director: Saeed Taji Farouky. I’m a Palestinian / British filmmaker and artist. I’ve been making films since 1998 when I wrote and produced a short film on 16mm. In 2011 I was selected to be a TED Senior Fellow, and I’ve been previously named Artist-in-Residence at Tate Britain and The British Museum. My latest film, co-directed with Michael McEvoy, Tell Spring Not to Come This Year premiered at the Berlinale 2015 where it won 2 award, including Panorama Documentary Audience Choice Award. It received a cinema release in the UK and was called “A powerful, beautifully shot documentary…4 stars” by The Guardian. It went on to be long-listed for a BAFTA, win Best Feature Documentary at Documenta Madrid and Heartland Film Festival, and screen at 40 festivals around the world. It is a finalist in the One World Media Awards on June 16th.

Maria Caruana Galizia is an entrepreneurial producer based in Newcastle upon Tyne. Maria started her film industry career with Scottish Television, working as an assistant editor. She later worked as a freelance Digital Imagining Technician on TV shows like Sinbad (Sky TV) and Game of Thrones (HBO). In 2013 she set up her own production company and has produced videos for global brands including Sony Music. She has produced 5 short films to date, including the Award Winning, Creative England funded short “A Six and Two Threes” by Andy Berriman, and the Award Winning Short “The Lost Girl” by Laura Degnan. Maria is currently in pre-production on two other short films “Mordechai” funded by the Pears Foundation through UK Jewish Film and “Metroland” funded by Creative England iShorts 3, both written and directed by Benjamin Bee.

Cinematographer: Emma Dalesman is freelance Cinematographer and graduate of the Cinematography MA at the National Film and Television School. She shoots a range of projects encompassing fiction, documentary, films with artists, promos and commercials. Her commercial work and been shown across numerous platforms including international broadcast and cinemas. Documentary work has screened on national television and her work with artists has exhibited internationally and in the UK including shows at the Tate Britain and Imperial War Museum. Her narrative work has been shown at numerous international film festivals including the BFI London Film Festival, and she has been nominated for both the Kodak and Fuji Cinematography awards.

And with that, I hope you’re interested, so please have a look at the incentives, see what you like the sound of, and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks in advance.

Risks and challenges

Our biggest challenge is getting the film out to a wide audience once it's finished. Short films can be difficult to distribute, but thankfully we have several excellent networks helping to get the film out there. Channel 4, Northern Film + Media, The Artist's Cut and BALTIC are all collaborating on the programme to promote the films made under this commission. We also have a guaranteed premiere and follow-up screening at two great short film festivals, and release strategy consultancy from Festival Formula. We're confident we can overcome the hurdles and find an audience with this film.

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    Exclusive signed on-set photos

    An exclusive signed photo from Saeed’s series of images taken during production, a digital download of film and thank you in the film’s credits

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    An exclusive behind-the-scenes video

    An exclusive behind-the-scenes video, showing the making of the film and including an interview with the film’s star, Tom E. Lewis, and co-star discussing the preservation and representation of Aboriginal cultures. Also receive an exclusive signed print, a digital download of the final film and thank you in the film's credits.

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    Signed CD&DVD from Tom's musical project

    Did you now the film's lead, Tom E. Lewis, was also an award-winning musician? He’s donated 10 signed copies of his ground-breaking album Muyngarnbi. The album brings four Arnhem Land songmen together with Tom’s love of blues, rock, gypsy, rhumba and jazz - the album blows apart assumptions and genres and brings traditions of musical rebellion from around the world together for something soulful and beautifully raw. The signed CD also includes a 30 minute behind-the-scenes DVD that documents the making of this unique album. You can listen to a selection of tracks here: http://djilpinarts.org.au/music/

    You'll also receive one of Saeed's exclusive signed prints, a digital download of the final film and thank you in the film's credits.

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    Signed copies of Saeed's back catalogue

    Signed DVDs of all 4 of Saeed’s feature films (Tell Spring Not to Come This Year, ...Even That Void, The Runner, I See The Stars At Noon) for UK-based backers, (or digital downloads of all 4 films for non-UK backers) as well as the exclusive behind-the-scenes film, a signed print, a digital download of the final film and thank you in the film's credits.

    For more on Saeed's previous films, including trailers, please visit his website: http://www.touristwithatypewriter.com

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    Be an extra, or, tickets to a screening.

    Be an extra in the film. Let our wardrobe department fit you for a Victorian costume and join us on location on July 5th in the beautiful library of the Mining Institute, Newcastle. If you can't make it to set, you can get 2 free tickets to a screening near you (screenings already confirmed in Berwick and York, more will be available during the film's release). You'll also receive signed DVDs or downloads of all 4 of Saeed’s feature films (DVDs for UK-based backers only), access to the behind-the-scenes film, a signed print, a digital download of the final film and Special Thanks in the credits.

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Funding period

- (21 days)