Papiyon Volé! was written by Jenny Zobel (pictured top centre, with Jennifer Granville and BA (Hons) Filmmaking student Joe Armstrong) as part of the 2016 CINAGE: Filmmaking for Active Ageing project at Leeds Beckett University. It tells the story, through drama and animation, of Jenny’s young grandson, Theo, discovering his family history and cultural heritage in Martinique. It has been chosen to be screened at the Golden Owl Awards on Thursday 30 March for its positive depiction of global culture and intergenerational relationships.
Papiyon Volé! was one of four original short films made by teams of over-60s with no previous filmmaking experience and premiered at the Hyde Park Picture House in December 2016. The films incorporated drama, animation and documentary, and were produced over the course of 10 months. A total of 23 people took part in an immersive programme of specialist workshops in scriptwriting, directing, producing and editing at the Northern Film School at Leeds Beckett alongside students, academics and alumni.
Jenny said: “Each participant wrote a screenplay with the theme of age and ageing or the passing of time. The course leaders then chose four of our screenplays to develop into short films, including Papiyon Volé!; and we split into teams to work on the films.
“Papiyon Volé! means ‘fly, butterfly!’ in French and is a traditional children’s song in Martinique, which I remember from my childhood and which features in the film. The team of over-60s that I worked were really sympathetic to the message of my story and it was a pleasure to work with them.”
Still from 'Papiyon Volé!'
Jenny’s film features an animation, created by Sherbert animation studios, depicting Theo’s journey from his grandmother’s flat in Leeds through a magic portal to the world of his ancestors in Martinique.
Jenny explained: “The animation element of the film was my idea as it was a journey of discovery, showing my grandson, who lives in Leeds, with little inkling of who my ancestors were, that he is linked to people far away who had a harsh life. I wanted the portrait that hangs in my Leeds flat, of myself when I was four years old, to act as a magic portal to transport my grandson into that world and be introduced to the world of my ancestors.
“I wanted them to become very small in the scenes in Martinique, flying on the top of a hummingbird over the beach where I was born. The girl in the portrait travels with Theo and they become as small as the hibiscus flowers as they visit the plantation where Theo’s ancestors used to work, making their way down the sugar canes. Through his journey, Theo learns about his family’s history and culture and gains an understanding of how meaningful the bowl is that his grandmother presents him with at the start of the film in her Leeds home.”
Speaking about her experience of the CINAGE project, Jenny added: “I enjoyed working on the film, especially working with the professional people at the Northern Film School and being taught by the lecturers. By profession, I was a radio broadcaster for the BBC World Service, broadcasting in French from London. I’ve never done film before, which is the opposite of radio – what you see is important, rather than what you hear. I found the experience very humbling. When I wrote my film script I had to forget everything, put aside my assumptions, and listen to the advice I was given.”
Jennifer Granville, Principal Lecturer in the Northern Film School, said: “Jenny’s film is such a great example of what we have been trying to do in the CINAGE project: to cross generations and teach new disciplines to people over the age of 60, whilst offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to make creative work that will be seen by a wide and varied audience at occasions like the Golden Owls. Papiyon Volé! is a story that crosses generations (a grandmother showing her grandson her – and his – heritage), utilises difficult, complicated animation techniques that required our older students to work with a professional animation studio, MA Music students, Northern Film School filmmaking staff, alumni and undergraduates. The experience has been life-enhancing and illustrates perfectly what being an ‘age friendly University’ means to Leeds Beckett.”
Leeds Beckett University will run two CINAGE courses this year: one in filmmaking and one in performance. For information about how to get involved, please contact David Turner on 0113 812 3330 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Golden Owl Awards is a filmmaking competition for young people aged 19 and under, taking place in partnership with Leeds Young Film Festival 2017 (LYFF). The event takes place at Leeds Town Hall and will be an Oscars-style awards ceremony celebrating the filmmaking talents of young people across the city.