People

Patrons, Board and Insight team members for the 4th Insight Film Festival and beyond.

Patron: Insight Festival

Lord David Puttnam CBE

Lord David Puttnam CBE FRSA is a BAFTA-winning film producer and generous contributor to the media industry. Lord Puttnam has produced hugely successful films, including Chariots of Fire, Bugsy Malone and The Mission, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986. He was CEO at Colombia Pictures from 1986 to 1988, founded Creative Skillset in 1992, and was Chair of the National Film and Television School for ten years. He was elected UK President of UNICEF in 2002, serving until 2009. Lord Puttnam was appointed CBE in 1983, knighted in 1995 and created a Life Peer in 1997. In 1982 he received the BAFTA Michael Balcon Award for his outstanding contribution to the British Film Industry, and in 2006 was awarded the BAFTA Fellowship. In total, his films have won 10 Oscars (26 nominations), 25 BAFTAs (68 nominations) and 1 Palme d’Or.

I am pleased to support the Insight Film Festival. Its proposition, that belief is a vital motivational aspect of life for millions in the UK and throughout the world, provides rich food for thought. Filmmakers have a responsibility to reflect and explore beliefs and ideas on behalf of us all. By inviting young filmmakers to consider the importance of their responsibilities, and by encouraging community cohesion, the Insight Festival offers the opportunity for creative contributions to our understanding of each other’s dreams.

Patron: Insight Festival

David N Weiss

David N Weiss is an Emmy Award-nominated screenwriter and author from the USA. David has worked on hugely successful features, including The Smurfs and Shrek 2, which he co-wrote with J. David Stem. This partnership also wrote the screenplay for The Rugrats Movie and co-wrote Rugrats in Paris, two of the highest grossing traditional animated features of all time.  The duo were co-writers on the Academy Award-nominated feature, Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius and received an Emmy nomination as head writers of the Rugrats series. A member of the Motion Picture Academy, David currently serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Writer’s Guild of America, West, after two terms as Vice-President.

I was drawn to the Insight festival because I love the notion of encouraging filmmakers to explore ideas and themes that centre on our pursuit of meaning and purpose in life.

Patron: Insight Festival

Deatra Harris

Deatra Harris is a screenwriter, producer and director from Atlanta, Georgia. Deatra has co-produced a number of shorts and features, including the critically acclaimed feature Kinyarwanda, which won the World Cinema Award at the 27th Annual Sundance Festival. Deatra Harris holds a Bachelor of Arts in MIS/Mathematics from Bowling Green State University. She is in pre-production with her third short film, What About Us. Her new feature film, My Manz and ‘Em, is in development.

I believe film is such a beautiful and meaningful art form because it allows the filmmaker to give a voice to the voiceless, give perspective to a story, culture or issue that is typically skewed and it gives people from different races, religions and cultures an opportunity to peek into each others’ world. The Insight Film Festival gives the filmmakers the platform to expose their work and gives the audiences a place to come together for constructive, positive interaction and dialogue about religion and faith. I congratulate and support Insight Film Festival for being such a tremendous voice for the Interfaith communities and for taking such a huge step to bring the world closer together.

Patron: Insight Festival

Frank Cottrell Boyce

Frank Cottrell Boyce is a critically acclaimed, Award-winning author and screenwriter of film and television from Liverpool. His work includes Millions, 24 Hour Party People and Welcome to Sarajevo. He won the 2004 Carnegie Medal for Best Children’s Book published in the UK for the novelisation of Millions. Frank worked closely with director Danny Boyle to create the vision of Britain in the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics. Having collaborated with other directors, such as Michael Winterbottom, Anand Tucker and Alex Cox, Frank has been a key figure in the establishment of a successful British film industry.

The Insight Festival: People from all over the world, of every philosophy, talking about things that really matter.

Patron: Insight Festival

Fuad Nahdi

Fuad Nahdi is a pioneering journalist, commentator and campaigner. He is currently Director of Radical Middle Way and founding publisher of the Muslim Magazine, Q-News. Fuad has worked and contributed to media organisations from around the world, including Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Arab News, The Nation, ABC News, Crescent International, Africa Events and BBC World Service.   Fuad’s work as a journalist has been sought after by many titles, including The Economist, The Independent, The Guardian, The New York Times, The New Statesman, Arab News, Mail & Guardian (South Africa), BBC, Arabia Magazine, Asahi Shimbun, Channel 4 and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Fuad’s contribution to community activism and interfaith work within the media spans over three decades, and has been widely recognised in the UK and across the Muslim world. For three successive years he was named one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims in a widely acclaimed survey by Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan.  His name has featured on the UK Muslim Power 100 list identifying the country’s Muslims who were making a profound contribution to British life and society.  Most recently Faud is the recipient of the 2012 Sternberg Foundation Interfaith Gold Medallion to honour a lifetime of work bringing communities of diverse faith together.

The combination of faith and film is natural and explosive. If faith is about the big stories, film is about sharing them. The Insight Film Festival is about facilitating much needed creative space where the divine, so to speak, meets the creative. The result can only be a more informed, engaging and respectful society. The emphasis on working with the young makes the Insight Film Festival an especially worthwhile organisation for all of us to invest in and support.

Patron: Insight Festival

Michael Wakelin

Michael Wakelin worked at the BBC for 23 years as researcher, producer and director in radio and television, culminating as Head of Religion and Ethics (2006-09). His production credits include the landmark BBC1 series Son of God, BBC2′s Cathedral CallsSongs of PraiseGood Morning Sunday and a several award-winning documentaries on BBC Radio 1 and 2. He is now Director of Coexist Programmes, Executive producer at TBI Media, Co-director of Like for Like Productions, and a Religion and Media Consultant, with a range of faith-based clients.

In order to create a better society we must learn to understand each others’ faiths and values. So let me give my fulsome backing to the purpose of this Festival.

Festival Director

John Forrest

John Forrest is the Founder and Director of the Insight Festival. In this capacity, he blogs at Insight Director. He has a long-running career in television and radio as a producer and director. Although his work has been broad in its range, he has found himself continually drawn to religious ideas. John’s staff roles have taken him from the production of BBC Radio 1 chat shows, through documentaries with the BBC educational television unit, to gigantic Outside Broadcasts for the BBC’s Songs of Praise. He has worked as a freelancer since 2001, and now enjoys a wide portfolio of media interests that includes broadcast, corporate and training activities.

In the 1990s I began mentoring young entrants to the film industry. I met one young camera assistant with a strong faith who noticed my background and wanted to talk about how little encouragement he got from industry colleagues. It mirrored my own experience. At the same time, all around us, anyone who cared to could see the obvious need to explore, discuss and understand ideas about faith. We discussed film festivals and how important they are to young filmmakers who need an audience to progress their careers. We began to dream about the possibilities. I talked the idea around with some of my professional friends and media contacts, and the Insight Festival began.

Board Member and Head of Shortlist Committee

David Butler

David Butler is a senior lecturer in Screen Studies at the University of Manchester and is the author of Jazz Noir (2002) and Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen (2009). His research interests include film music, film noir, literary adaptations, non-naturalistic cinema/television and ‘the fantastic’ on screen.

What excites me most about the Insight Festival is the opportunity it provides for young filmmakers to explore topics that do not tend to receive much broadcast time in the UK. I’d felt for a while that many of the talented young people that I was fortunate to work with did not have an outlet for more contemplative and questioning films; in order to succeed in the UK screen industries then, they often seemed to be under pressure to make fast-paced, kinetic music videos, established genre pieces and…well… formula, however well-made. What I hope the Insight Festival will encourage is films of integrity and creativity that are socially engaged and imaginative in their approach. The last thing the Festival is intended to be, for me, is a showcase for religious recruitment videos – but what I hope it will do is offer a forum for young people to question and enlighten, through the combination of sound and image, whether critiquing faith or championing it.

Board Member and Financial Adviser

Michael Harvey

Michael Harvey is a founding team member of Back to Church Sunday and has, in this capacity, spoken to thousands of church leaders across five continents. Back to Church Sunday takes place in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Wales and the United States. Michael’s vision for Back to Church is to mobilise 1 million people to invite 1 million friends back into a relationship with God.

I support Insight because in a world that seeks to diminish the importance of faith, Insight gives an opportunity for people to discuss faith through the medium of film.

Board Member and Financial Adviser

Iain Jennions

Iain Jennions developed his accountancy career at Grant Thornton before taking a break to study International Business and Spanish in Salamanca, Spain.  He is now a director of his own practice Jennions Macken Limited. He helps to provide an independent financial overview for Insight, and assists the Director and coordinator with budgeting and providing a financial framework to allow Insight to deliver a successful, cost-effective event in line with its funding.

Board Member

Johannes Sjöberg

Johannes Sjöberg is a lecturer in Screen Studies at the University of Manchester with a professional background in acting and ethnographic film-making. Specialising in screen practice as research, Johannes is interested primarily in the ethnographic aspects of faith-related films (especially documentaries), drawing on community-based filmmaking and exhibition as a catalyst for cultural dialogue. Johannes oversees the shortlisting process and the scheduling of the Insight Festival film programme.

Board Member

J Singh-Sohal

J Singh-Sohal is a television journalist and independent film maker. His independent films include  Sikhs At War, an online series and Turbanology: After 7/7, which bring the Sikh story to mainstream audiences. The latter project developed into a touring UK Arts Council exhibition with research published as a book which offering a comprehensive history of the development of Sikh identity. As an expert on matters of faith and identity, J regularly appears in international media outlets talking about his independent work. He has contributed to BBC films including 1984: A Sikh Story in 2009 and The Story of the Turban in 2012.  In his day job, J is Producer with Sky News television in a dynamic and busy international news environment.  He has package-produced stories ranging from the Arab Uprisings in 2011 through to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.  He also outputs live television news from the gallery, making key executive decisions and regularly breaking news. He has a passion for politics and takes great pride in serving his country in the Army Reserves.

As a television journalist and independent filmmaker, I’ve always valued the power of film to be able to express people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, and certainly ‘faith’ in film [as symbolised by Insight] is something that more people need to be encouraged to do, to express their religious values and belief structures on film – not just so they can share their sentiments, and their feelings and ideology with others, but also to help others understand and reflect upon where people are coming from…

Board Member

Abdul-Rehman Malik

Abdul-Rehman Malik is a London-based journalist, educator and organiser. He is currently programmes manager for the Radical Middle Way, the forward-thinking, mainstream Muslim,community interest company. Radical Middle Way works alongside grassroots partners around the world to provide powerful, faith-inspired guidance that gives tools to enable change, promote social justice for all, and combat exclusion and violence. Over the past four years, Abdul-Rehman has managed RMW’s international work in Sudan, Indonesia and Pakistan, which reached millions of people through media campaigns and over 100,000 people through face-to-face engagements. An experienced journalist and commentator, he is regular contributor to the BBC in the UK and to the BBC World Service’s Weekendprogramme. His BBC radio essay Faith and 9/11 won major awards  for excellence in broadcasting about religion His documentary, Islam Without God, which explored the increasingly public declarations of disbelief by a younger generation of born Muslims, was broadcast in February 2013 and won the Silver Medal in Religious Programmes category at the 2013 New York Festivals Global Radio Awards.

Radical Middle Way has an abiding belief that culture and artistic belief is vital in tackling the big issues that the communities that we work with face today. Insight seemed like the perfect fit – a festival that was about mediating faith through film, a place where critical conversations and debates could take place and – really – what Insight offered was partnership and friendship, to create spaces where a community could come together to talk about faith and film, and we’ve been able to contribute to that … and now we see the work of Insight as an extension of our own work. Insight’s success is our success.

Festival 4 Coordinator

Rebecca Padley

Becky Padley is a Drama and Screen Studies graduate from the University of Manchester who was the Festival Coordinator for the 4th Insight Festival. She has worked at Hat Trick television production company and as a volunteer at the BFI. Having operated behind the scenes in film and television, Becky appreciates the dedication and passion it takes to make a film.

I wanted to be able to put my love of film to good use and work for something that had a purpose. Insight is such an exciting festival as it invites filmmakers and audiences from a multitude of backgrounds, puts them into one room, and gets them to discuss faith and belief, all in the name of film. Film is such a powerful medium, and it’s great to have a festival dedicated to utilising that power. It gives people a platform to speak up and discuss the topics that so desperately need to be talked about.

Festival 4 Development Officer

Richard Benda

Richard Benda served on the Insight team as Development Officer for Festival 4. Having lived in Manchester for over 10 years, Richard returned to his native Rwanda recently, to investigate to opportunities of expanding the Insight Festival into Africa. Having completed a PhD in Theology and Political Thought at the University of Manchester, Richard’s role with Insight was to secure financial sustainability through the development and funding of the Festival.

I love films and I am very interested in faith, both in its practical and conceptual dimensions. I am particularly interested in exploring the intersection between faith and socio-political life. Joining Insight is a great opportunity to see how this interaction is portrayed though films by younger generations from different walks of life.

Festival 5 Assistant

Ting Wang (Lexi)

While studying for her Masters degree in Intercultural Communication at the University of Manchester, Ting Wang (known as Lexi) is working for the Insight team as Festival Assistant for Festival 5. Originally from Mainland China, Ting graduated in Sports Journalism from Shanghai University of Sport before working for one year as an event assistant in an Italian Company. She also had experience as an intern director in the Shanghai Television Station during her Bachelor degree. Interested in intercultural interactions, Lexi decided to pursue further knowledge in the cultural field, trying to understand the similarities and differences in the contexts of living in various regions.

Working with the Insight Film Festival is an exciting experience for me. When I first visited the website, the idea of ‘faith’ at the heart of Insight raised my interest. What is the definition of ‘faith’? Religion? Belief? An attitude towards life? I think there are a variety of answers for this question, which depends on different cultures. I am motivated to seek the answers to these questions for myself and others. Meanwhile, working for Insight is the first time I have tried to work in an entirely intercultural environment. I believe it will help me to find out the real meaning of Intercultural Communication as it relates to my Master’s degree.

Festival 5 Assistant

Miranda Antoniou

Miranda Antoniou is a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester, studying an MA in Translation and Interpreting Studies. She graduated from Queen Mary University of London from a BA degree in Hispanic Studies and Portuguese, during which she was given the opportunity to study abroad. She spent this time stuying in Coimbra, Portugal, and in Seville, Spain. Miranda has also studied Italian at the Instituto Michelangelo in Florence, Italy.

I am extremely interested in film and in experiencing different cultures, so I am very excited to join the team working as a festival assistant for the 5th Insight Film Festival.

Editor and Development Executive

Christopher Norris

Christopher Norris joined the Insight team after Festival 4 as editor, to keep the existing website fresh and relevant, to energise the social media presence, to build networks and online relationships with people interested in ‘film’ and ‘faith’, and to contribute towards preparing for Insight’s online future. More recently, Chris has added the role of developing resources, packs and strategies for Insight’s fundraising campaigns. Chris started his media career in book publishing at Letts Education, before building a portfolio of skills and experience in web media (e.g. StoryCode.com), television (e.g. Real World Pictures; Mike Mansfield TV, You’re Booked!, LWT; Creative Media Marketing Ltd) and trade publishing (e.g. Pollinger Ltd; World Book Day). Chris runs the editorial services consultancy, CopyGhosting.com. You can contact Chris by email: editor@insightfestival.co.uk

I’m excited to be part of Insight at a time when the Festival is reaching out across the world to make new connections and to enable more filmmakers to share their stories on a global platform. I’m enthusiastic about making Insight’s web presence and social media platforms active hubs that are full of life and buzz. It’s great to be involved at such an exciting time of growth, especially wearing my development hat. Insight is a great investment opportunity for sponsors. I’m keen to hear from people who share the vision, who have ideas to share and who want to learn more about partnering with Insight financially.