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This weekend watch pioneering documentaries in B'Ham

Cultural activist Yussef Ahmed

PATIENTS AND their families at a Birmingham hospice have used the power of film to explain what life is really like for them on a day-to-day basis as they deal with a terminal illness.

Known as The Life: Moving project, it involves six patients and their relatives who have received care and support from staff at the John Taylor Hospice in Erdington.

Each film-maker was given practical training and the tools to create their own films which will be featured in an exhibition at St. Barnabas Church, High Street, Erdington, on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 April.

Among those who took part in the pioneering six-month project was the renowned West Midlands poet and cultural activist Yussef Ahmed, along with his wife Haifa and daughter Reem. Sadly Yussef, who was suffering from bone marrow cancer, died last December.

However, his film is now a homage to the talented performer and musician, known for his talent in bridging the gap between literature and music.

Haifa said:

“The camera has always been an essential part of our lives. Filming has been a normal thing for Reem since she was a toddler and, as a professional model at one time, Reem was keen to take a big part in this film.

“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 – the memories she has of him will never end.

“Yussef was a soul mate, friend and husband who will be missed forever,” added Haifa.

“He was a poet, a father, brother and son to all his people in Birmingham, Trinidad and Palestine. He died after fighting a great fight with a cruel illness.”

Life: Moving is part of a research project called Digital Technology and Human Vulnerability: Towards an Ethical Praxis. Based at the University of Birmingham, the project 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.

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 is 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 project was coordinated at the hospice by art psychotherapist Jed Jerwood, who said it offered patients a new way to explore their experiences and feelings. He said:

“Participating in research studies like Life: Moving gives our patients different ways of telling their stories, their history and expressing different views and experiences of living with a terminal illness.

“People find words very limiting and, by working in film and visual image, they often find ways to express the depth of feeling and experience which reflects their individual situations.”

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the project brought together a range of experts in film, digital technologies, arts practice and art therapy.

The exhibition will also be included in the week-long Matter of Life and Death Festival which will be held at the Midland Arts Centre (mac) from May 6-14. Organised by the community collective BrumYODO as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week, the festival will feature exhibitions, theatre, talks and debates, art activities and a stalls market place.

For further details click here.

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