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UEL filmmaker Jill Daniels wins prestigious Ann Arbor Film Festival experimental film prize

Dr Daniels is recognised by the oldest experimental film festival in the United States

University of East London (UEL) filmmaker Jill Daniels has been awarded the prestigious Ann Arbor Film Festival prize for Best Experimental Film.

Dr Daniels won the award for My Private Life II, an autobiographical film which explores the effects of her father’s unacknowledged homosexuality on his Jewish family. 

Dr Daniels said, “I’m slightly stunned. It’s a great honour. I think everyone making experimental films knows Ann Arbor. It’s really, really famous.” 

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is an annual event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. Founded in 1963, it is the oldest experimental film festival in the US, and the third-oldest film festival in North America. This year, My Private Life II was one of just 120 films chosen from over 3,000 entries to be screened at Ann Arbor.

The Best Experimental Film award recognises a film that successfully showcases the use of experimental processes, forms, and topics. The award comes with $1,000.

Dr Daniels’ My Private Life II uses split screens to create a metaphor of the uneasy relationship between father and daughter. Poetic enactments and home movies are also used to provide glimpses into the Daniels family history.

Dr Daniels said, “It’s an autobiographical film about my family’s history. And the core of it is the effect of my father’s sexuality on my family history and the fact that it was never spoken about. It’s a documentary but it’s a poetic documentary.”

My Private Life II, released in 2015, has been screened at festivals and film nights, including special programmes curated by Dr Daniels in Shoreditch and Glasgow. The film will also be shown at music and film festivals in Scotland this summer as part of a programme organised by cinema company Cinemor77. 

Dr Daniels made My Private Life II using footage from her earlier film, My Private Life, which was funded by a UEL early career researcher grant. My Private Life was released in 2013.

In the autumn, Dr Daniels hopes to complete a trilogy of sorts with a pop-up project that will take place on a local high street.

Dr Daniels will re-create the living room of her old family home, an important setting in her two films.

Passers-by will be invited to step inside and participate in activities which take place in the film – such as drinking tea and reading the newspaper – while My Private Life II plays on a nearby screen.

Dr Daniels is also currently working on an essay film Journey to the South she recently shot in the south of France with help from a UEL medium career research grant.