University family filming helps understanding of death

24 April 2017

Patients and families supported by John Taylor Hospice have created a series of films telling their own stories which will be incorporated into at an exhibition in Erdington.

‘The Life: Moving’ project saw six patients and family members at the hospice filming their thoughts and experiences over a six month period.

And the finished films will be featured in an exhibition at St Barnabas Church in Erdington, between 28-29 April.

Each film-maker was given practical training and filmmaking devices that best met their needs.

‘Life: Moving’ is part of a University of Birmingham research project which aims to challenge society’s misconceptions about terminal illness by giving those experiencing it the opportunity to tell their own stories and bring them to a wider audience.

One of the participants is 56-year-old Robert Homer (pictured), an artist from Handsworth, and in his ten minute film he shares some of the challenges he faces in daily life.

He said: “I started with several ideas and gradually it became clearer what I wanted to concentrate on. I’m pleased with the final film. People don’t know what it’s like when you you’ve been told you’re going to die so I hope this film will help them understand a bit more.”

Family members were also invited to take part. Haifa Ahmed, whose husband Yussef was supported by the hospice, took part with her daughter Reem.

She said: “Yussef is a soul mate, friend and husband who will be missed forever. Yussef Ahmed is poet, father, friend, brother and son to all his people in Birmingham, Trinidad and Palestine and he died after fighting a great fight with a cruel illnesses.  

“The main reason for us at the time to take part in the project was Reem. Her dad Yussef always described her as amazing, smart, sweet, unique and last but not least a kind-hearted child. Reem has been a big part of Yussef’s strength to fight his illness all these years and she is the main follower of her dad’s amazing legacy and the memory she had with him will never end. 

Research team leader Dr Michele Aaron, of the University of Birmingham, said: “The project sought to better understand the potential of digital film to serve the best interests of the vulnerable lives it so often depicts and disseminates. In an age when smart phone footage can deliver us to the frontlines of conflict or human suffering, this kind of research becomes increasingly pressing. 

 “John Taylor Hospice was selected as our community partner for various reasons - its track record of involvement in exciting arts projects and arts research, its emphasis on community outreach which was very compatible with that of the project and the team’s familiarity with the interesting work that members of the hospice staff team were involved in.”

The exhibition will also be included in the week-long Matter of Life and Death Festival which takes place at Midlands Arts Centre between 6-14 May. The festival will feature exhibitions, theatre, talks and debates, art activities and a market place of stalls.



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