Humanise Community Film Club
Supporting Metal Liverpool through our Propeller Awards

Funding to fuel the empathy machine in Liverpool.

Roger Ebert famously conceived of cinema as an empathy machine. A tool to reduce the barriers between people sitting side by side in the auditorium as well as the people they see on screen. It’s a neat line – perhaps the critic’s most famous – and one that feels particularly relevant to the work of the Humanise Community Film Club: a new screening series housed out of Metal, Liverpool’s arts laboratory.

The club takes as its origin a simple, powerful premise – one enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” From there, they produce film events that bring together the various communities that call Liverpool’s Edge Hill district home. The aim is to highlight their audiences’ common humanity. By sharing stories of people fighting for their rights from the margins, they work to foster recognition where there is similarity, empathy where there is difference and outrage where there is injustice.

Lead by Aleasha Chaunte, one of Metal’s artists in residence, the club began screening films in June 2019 with support from Film Hub North’s Propeller Awards and Arts Council England. Prior to the first public event, Aleasha went out into the community: meeting people, sharing meals with them and starting discussions about the ways film can generate empathy for the marginalised.

The result of this process was a fledging club committee who met over meals and developed a programme of films designed to unite their communities and spark debate. Each screening addressed human rights struggles and provided audiences with a space to share ideas and hear from an invited guest speaker. Events included a screening of I, Daniel Blake – Ken Loach’s dismantling of the failing benefits system – introduced by Madeline Heneghan, co-director of Writing on the Wall Festival, who discussed her organisation's social justice work and the processes of power at play in the film. And 12 Angry Lebanese, a unique documentary about inmates staging a production of Twelve Angry Men in a Beirut prison, was given apt context by Chesca Joy: founder of Imagine If Theatre, a theatre company with extensive experience working with offenders and ex-offenders.

Following the initial Hub-funded pilot programme of 6 screenings, the Humanise Community Film Club received further backing from Liverpool Soup – an informal, grassroots funding initiative that, fittingly, combines community-building with meal-sharing. It’s credit to what the club has already achieved in a short space of time, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.

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The Humanise Community Film Club presented their 2019 pilot programme with support from our Propeller Awards. For more information on how we can help your next project, visit our Exhibition Funding homepage.