Salford lecturer's work commended at worldwide film festivals

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

A University of Salford lecturer’s short film is gaining critical acclaim at film festivals around the world.

Multi award-winning filmmaker Tony Hipwell teaches on the university’s Film Production programme and has been overwhelmed by the positive reaction his science fiction drama Standing Woman has gained.

The film is an adaptation of renowned Japanese author, Yasutaka Tsutsui’s short story of the same name which brings a chilling new dystopian vision to life.

“It took five years for us to produce the film”, says Tony. “It has been a very long process – firstly negotiating the rights to the film, then developing how we were going to realise the tree people which proved to incredibly complex. It’s been a lot of work, but well worth it. We premiered earlier this year and have been gaining momentum since. It’s amazing to be shown at film festivals such as Fantasia, FrightFest and multiple Oscar qualifiers.”

Standing Woman is a science-fiction drama with flourishes of body horror that depicts a near future where the government, rather than imprisoning criminals or deporting immigrants, turns them into trees as part of an insidious environmental campaign.

Within this world, a propaganda filmmaker wrestling with the recent ‘planting’ of his wife for making seditious comments, embarks on an emotional journey to say a final goodbye.

Featuring incredible depictions of a populace being slowly vegetised by a production team who have worked on the likes of Censor, Doctor Who, and Peaky Blinders, the vision presented in Standing Woman is of a world that has edged into eco-fascism.

It was shot entirely around North Yorkshire and included a diverse cast and crew from across the United Kingdom. The adaptation strived to honour the source material despite the relocation to a western setting and so included Japanese perspectives and crew throughout the production.

“It’s great to finally start networking at in-person film festivals,” he said. “It was amazing to be shown at Fantasia – it’s one of the biggest festivals in the world, but we couldn’t be there, so when we had our UK premiere at FrightFest in-person, it was a really gratifying experience. We have just announced our first BAFTA qualifying festival selection at Leeds International Film Festival which is incredibly exciting, and have fingers crossed for Manchester Film Festival as we’d love to play it close to the University.”

Tony’s flair for storytelling has led to him developing projects with Fox Searchlight, Channel 4, and the BBC as well as directing an award-winning feature film that is also touring festivals and due for release in 2022. Alongside filmmaking, Tony is passionate about teaching the next generation of upcoming talent through lecturing in Film Production.

He said: “The festival run has been great for my students as I can pass on my experience of the past 18 months and how the industry has had to shift its approach. Long-term it would be great to employ some of our graduates on future projects as well. The calibre of our film students is incredibly high.”

Tony aspires to take the narrative told in the film further and expand it into a feature length production as he believes “there are many more stories that could be told”.

You can visit the Facebook page for more information about the film. 

Watch the Standing Woman trailer.

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