TWO film students from the University of West London have won a prestigious festival award for their documentary on assisted suicide.
Jon Gordon and Niko Alajoki, from the university’s Ealing School of Art, Design and Media, have were awarded the British Film Institute’s Future Film Festival Documentary Award for under 25s.
The documentary looks at both sides of the contentious debate. It is particularly topical in the light of the recent case of Tony Nicklinson, who is physically paralysed and fighting to have a doctor legally end his life.
Jon, from Birmingham, and Niko, from Finland, both 24 and studying for an MA in video production and film studies, impressed the judges with their film Lasting Rights. It focuses on a central character, Rhea, who recalls her experiences of caring for her terminally ill mother.
Jon recently graduated from the university and Niko is still on the course.
Jon said the award felt surreal and fantastic. “It was brilliant to win, completely out of the blue,” he added.
“Making the film was a real learning curve and worthwhile experience. At the same time, we were pushed to really engage in the creative process, constantly having to assert how we could improve our film.
“It's a very interesting and important issue. Everyone has a connection with this because it does affect a lot of people at some stage in their lives. We did a lot of research and, while we presented both sides of the argument, we came down to slightly agreeing with assisted suicide. At the end of the day, everyone has the right to have their own choice – personal freedom.”
Jon said his university course had given him the skills to make his mark in the film industry, adding: “The MA has prepared me for professional work in many ways – the way I conduct myself and interact with people, how I professionally present my work and how to seek to improve.
“These are some of the underlying but really important things I’ve gained from the course alongside deep technical experience and knowledge.
“The reality is you have a great opportunity to produce really high quality films and get them into film festivals both nationally and internationally.”
Programme leader Mark Chapman said: “This is a well-deserved award for two exceptional students. It takes courage, dedication and commitment to make real documentaries and we are proud to see two more students receive critical acclaim.”