Middlesex University short films win London award

Two Middlesex University student productions have triumphed at the Royal Television Society London Student Television Awards

A composite photo of a person and one couple holding awards
Sanaa Hamdou (left) and Ben Bogdan-Hodgson and Alina Ilin (right). Photos: RTS London/John Stone

A short comedy drama about a town where everyone has a moustache and a short documentary about witnessing the 2020 Beirut Port explosion produced by Middlesex University students have been recognised at the Royal Television Society (RTS) London Student Television Awards.

Ben Bogdan-Hodgson and Alina Ilin received the Entertainment and Comedy Drama Award for their short film The Other Half, about a town where every resident, male and female, sports a handsome moustache. 

Sanaa Hamdoun won in the Factual – Short Form category for her documentary short The Turning Point about a young Lebanese woman overcoming many obstacles to achieve her dream of becoming a cinematographer.

Hamdoun, who graduated in BA Television and Digital Production at MDX last year, was delighted with her win for the film The Turning Point, made in Beirut. A mature student from Lebanon, with more than 20 years’ experience as a freelance filmmaker, presenter and producer of programmes on social and humanitarian topics, Hamdoun was determined to make a film about a woman from her homeland who was surviving and progressing in life despite the obstacles she faced. 

The film focuses on Rayan and her family, who witnessed the huge explosion at Beirut port in 2020. “That day was overwhelming and a huge turning point, especially in Rayan’s career as a cinematographer,” said Hamdoun. “On that day she tried to document everything, which she could only bear to witness through her camera.  My film reflects on the dreams of many young people in the Middle East, or anyone facing adversity, to chase those dreams and never give up, just like Rayan.”

The plot of The Other Half involves the main character Ash who conforms to wearing a moustache like everybody else, but he must admit its falseness to save Nadia from the town’s adversity.  Bogdan-Hodgson and Ilin shot the film in Sighisoara, Romania, which provided the desired backdrop of colourful historic buildings less expensively than would be possible in the UK.

As producer, Bogdan-Hodgson and the team had to spend much of their time fundraising. “Many people doubted the feasibility of raising £10,000 for a student short film, but we embraced the challenge and made it happen through our hard work,” said director Ilin. “We received invaluable support from many amazing people, many of whom were not familiar with the film industry but believed in us and our capabilities.”

The team persuaded the town’s Mayor to grant them permission to film in the Town Citadel, a UNESCO world heritage site, with local police blocking the street so cast and crew could work their magic.

The Other Half has been nominated for a Learning on Screen award and will be showcased at the Curzon Soho cinema on 2nd May 2024. Ilin and Bogdan-Hodgsonhope to develop the concept from a 15-minute short into a TV series or miniseries. 

In partnership with an MDX fellow student, the pair have a production company and make showreels for child and adult actors. 

Dr Helen Bendon, Interim Head of the School of Film and Associate Professor of Film and Media at MDX, said: “This is a fantastic result for our Middlesex students to win in both major categories at the London RTS awards. Both films were overseas productions, which comes with challenges. The students have delivered rich, urgent storytelling and displayed fantastic skills and professionalism in filmmaking, and I am immensely proud that this work has been rewarded by the RTS.”

Paul Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Television Production at MDX, said: “We are hugely proud of the achievements of our graduates and hope these deserved awards help them make their way in the film and TV industry as they start their careers as professional filmmakers.”

The RTS Student Television Awards recognise the best audio-visual work by undergraduate and postgraduate students across the UK, and nurture and support this talent and potential of students to make film and video content. The national awards will be presented in June.

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