And the Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award goes to…
20 September 2016
Tim Jones, Senior Lecturer in Film in the School of Media, Art and Design, has won a Hollywood International Independent Documentary Award for his documentary, Seeking Sydney.
The documentary provides an insight into the scope, ambition and technical level of an early amateur filmmaker, specifically focusing on the life and work of Sydney Bligh, a Canterbury-based amateur filmmaker and electrical engineer. Bligh, who died in 1943, left behind a vast collection of amateur films that he had produced since 1924. Seeking Sydney investigates Bligh’s languished, almost forgotten, films and unveils the stories behind their production.
Tim discovered that Bligh’s films included footage of the local eccentric multimillionaire Count Zborowski, who lived just outside of Canterbury in the 1920s and is best known for his exploits as an amateur racing driver. His specially built cars, that incorporated First World War aeroplane engines, were later to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s children’s book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The films also include the only known images of the Count’s mile-long narrow gauge steam railway built around his Higham Estate in Bridge.
Within Bligh’s collection was also footage of T.S. Eliot at the first performances of Murder in the Cathedral and Dorothy L Sayers with her first performances of The Zeal of Thy House and The Devil to Pay.
Tim said: “The more I researched Sydney Bligh the more I came to realise how talented he was. Sydney was an early pioneer of radio, broadcasting his own show to Canterbury before the formation of the BBC. He had an aerial over 100 yards long stretching from his shop on North Lane, SW Bligh, which is now the Westgate Inn. He was also an early pioneer of television and invented components that improved television reception. For me though, the newsreel films he made of Canterbury between 1934 and 1939 are his greatest achievement. They are of such high quality and provide a unique record of life in this area at that time.
“One of the things I was keen to get across in my documentary was to connect with the emotions of the viewer. So my film follows Sydney Bligh's granddaughter, Helen Jarrett, on her journey to discover the grandfather that she never knew through his films. She visits the various places that appeared in his films and investigates why he made his films. She also learns how to use the same 1926 Cine Kodak Model B camera that Sydney used.
“This is the first award that I have won abroad, so it was particularly exciting that this should be in Hollywood. I am thrilled that others find the film, and Bligh’s work, as interesting as I do.”
Seeking Sydney will be screened at the Hollywood International IndependentAwards festival at The Raleigh Studios, in Hollywood, on 10 September 2016.
An excerpt can be seen at https://vimeo.com/172122338.
Notes to Editor
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.
- 95% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
- We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.
*2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey