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Sex Education director, Ken Loach’s producer and Film4 exec lead praise for Manchester Met final year film students

The creativity, originality and talent of Manchester Met’s filmmaking students has been praised by a lineup of industry experts including director Kate Herron (Netflix’s Sex Education), Ken Loach’s go-to BAFTA-winning producer Rebecca O’Brien, and Amy O’Hara, development and production executive at Film4.

The final year students from the University’s School of Digital Arts (SODA) were judged by the panel of professionals in ten categories including Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Producer, with O’Brien struggling to choose between three students’ “incredible work” for the latter award.

The ceremony took place at Manchester’s HOME where the students heard tributes from the ten-strong panel of judges, including Herron’s description of Levi Felix Holton’s Bird of Paradise as “nothing I’ve ever seen before” and “visually spectacular.”

The winner of Best Director and Best Artist Moving Image, Bird of Paradise follows a gentleman who embarks on an internal quest through multiple worlds, in which an exploration of two selves takes place.

SDirector Holton said: “I feel incredibly grateful to win these awards. Hearing the kind and generous words about my film from the judges was amazing, and I’m thankful for the respect and time that was shown to my practice.

“It was a lovely experience celebrating my successes and that of my peers, and it was a pleasure to show my work alongside some immensely talented individuals.”

Scooping Best Narrative, Best Writer and Alumni Award, Jennifer Masua-Zola’s Echelon centres on Solana, the only black ballerina in her company, who grapples with the demanding world of dance while supporting her mother through a health challenge.

O’Hara said of the film: “It told an emotionally satisfying and complete story. I loved how creative and playful the shot choices and the edits were and I think you managed to develop a cinematic language that echoed the themes of the film.”

Meanwhile, George Brignall McDougall’s Hermit, winner of Best Production Design and Best Producer, follows a reclusive agoraphobe named Hermit, who runs a unique drop-off storage system.

The film was selected by production designer and art director Martin Butterworth (Sky’s Brassic, ITV’s Cold Feet) as well as by Rebecca O’Brien who commended its “originality and weirdness.”

SODA’s senior lecturer Loran Dunn, said: “This year our filmmaking students showed an exceptional level of dedication and ambition in the undertaking of their graduate films, bringing urgent, important, and entertaining stories to the screen.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what they have achieved, and to see so many of them recognised by leading industry professionals.”

This week also sees Manchester Met’s art and design degree show featuring work from SODA students, and is open to the public until Saturday June 22 across SODA, Benzie, Chatham, Grosvenor West and Righton buildings on the University’s All Saints Campus.

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