Sheffield and Nanjing film premieres

By Kristina Diprose and Chen Liu, UK and China Research Associates

The INTERSECTION film ‘Osbomb, Love and Supershop: Performing Sustainable Words’ had its first screening in a packed community center in Jinja late last summer. The documentary, by Gravel and Sugar Productions, follows different generations coming together in community theatre workshops across three cities and continents, to share stories about sustainability. After its successful premiere in Uganda, we took the film back to Sheffield, UK and Nanjing, China in Autumn/Winter, to share with our participants and the wider public.

Gill Valentine introduces the film at the Festival of Social ScienceThe film screening in Sheffield, on 8 November 2016, was part of the city and nationwide Festival of Social Science. Around 85 people including many of the Sheffield stars of the film, friends and family, members of Sheffield City Council and the general public joined the film makers and INTERSECTION team for a screening and exhibition at the Showroom Workstation. This event took place almost exactly a year after an intergenerational cast of 30 first performed 11 short plays about sustainability in Sheffield, which raised a variety of environmental, economic and social concerns from fracking to austerity and immigration.

The film screening was followed by a Q&A and a lively discussion. The Sheffield audience commented that it was “excellent to see the realization of young and old that they can learn from each other” through creative projects. They also reflected on the value of theatre in social science research, as giving power to ordinary people to express the issues they care about. The different ways in which performers had interpreted sustainability across age groups and cultures was of particular interest. Some of the audience had expected a more environmental focus, but recognized that “working out what they [the performers] meant by sustainability was an important part of the process”.

Antony Mason from the Intergenerational Foundation spoke about the value of INTERSECTION in connecting ideas about intergenerational justice, fairness and sustainability across diverse national contexts. With so much intergenerational research focusing on Europe and the West, our film offers an alternative perspective grounded in ordinary people’s lives in three very different cities. It also suggests possible connections. It was great to see themes from the Jinja and Nanjing scenes, such as tree cutting and negative age stereotypes, also strike a chord in Sheffield.

Nanjing Scene 4 Super ShopIn December 2016, two film screening events were organised in Nanjing. The first was part of a seminar series at the School of Sociology in Nanjing University, primarily for students. The second event was a public screening at Nanjing Arts Institute, attended by the local film cast, facilitators, city residents and interviewees. At each event, the film screening was followed by an audience discussion.

The Nanjing theatre performance event in June 2016 produced 7 scenes by Nanjing residents from different age groups. ‘Osbomb, Love and Supershop’ mainly focuses on one of these scenes, ‘Supershop’, created by the middle-age group. This scene portrays the dangers of overconsumption and greed. In the film, it features prominently alongside scenes about austerity in Sheffield (‘Osbomb’, older group) and gender equality in Jinja (‘Love & Money’, younger group).

Film screening at Nanjing UniversityThe Nanjing audience liked the idea of gender-reversed ‘Love & Money’ play in Jinja and the appeal to gender equality, which they said is an important theme of social justice across the world. They perceived the older generation’s scenes - in both Sheffield and Nanjing – as more energetic, creative and active then their younger counterparts. These performers challenge the age stereotype that older people are weak and vulnerable in public, which is a mainstream discourse at least in China. Audience members who had not taken part in the theatre workshops were curious about the process and why the INTERSECTION research team decided to use theatre as a way to do social research.

China Research Associate Chen Liu reflects: “The most impressive thing for me, is the theatre participants’ passion for the project.” Since the performances and film screening, participants of all ages have expressed an interest in sharing the film with others, seeing more footage of their performances and connecting projects in Nanjing on the major themes of air pollution, overconsumption and gender equality.