A Liverpool Hope University academic is celebrating after her film won the ‘Best Documentary’ prize at the South Coast Film Festival.
Dr Simona Palladino is a Lecturer in Social Science at Hope.
Her documentary, Age Is Just a Bingo Number, follows a group of ageing Italian expats living in Newcastle.
Originally unveiled in 2018, it sees members of the ‘Associazione Amici D’Italia’, aka ‘Friends of Italy Association’, meeting each week at a community centre to play Bingo, share stories, sing songs and socialise.
The film explores what it means to be an older migrant, what it means to call a place ‘home’, and how this sense of identity impacts on our health, wellbeing and social engagement as we grow older.
And the feature has triumphed at the inaugural festival - which brought together short-films, sitcoms, TV pilots and mini-documentaries from across the world - in front of a live audience at the Electric Palace Cinema in Hastings, East Sussex, this weekend.
Dr Palladino, who joined Hope earlier this year, feels the film has taken on a new significance because of the global pandemic.
She explains: “I’m extremely proud to have been given this award, and delighted to have been able to show the documentary at the South Coast Film Festival, opening it up to a brand new audience.
“The film stresses the value of the social aspects of life in terms of our health and well-being - and highlights something that we had perhaps taken for granted.
“During the Coronavirus pandemic, it became immediately apparent that shrinking social networks and banned social gatherings would deeply affect an ageing population.
“This was also the case for some of the people I worked with, with whom I was in contact with regularly via phone call.
“During our conversations, I realised just how much the group needed this social interaction, and how it had created intense emotional ties.
“Yet members of the club are not able to fully participate in their weekly interactions with each other in what’s a profoundly sociable activity: playing Bingo!
“I particularly wish to dedicate this award to one of the Italian community members, who experienced health issues during the pandemic. I hope he will get well soon.”
And it’s not the first prize the documentary has picked up.
Age is Just a Bingo Number was previously judged ‘Best Documentary’ at the Mediterranean Film Festival of Cannes, and received Special Mention at Intimalents, Film Festival of Visual Ethnography, in Italy.
Describing the community she shone a light on, Simona explains: “These were people who mainly came to England after the second World War for economic reasons and who then fell in love, got married to a British partner, and stayed here.
“The stories were so interesting, I just knew that I had to document them.
“Some had found themselves in prisoner of war camps but ultimately settled in Newcastle and found a sense of ‘home’.
“And with this project, I wanted to understand their sense of attachment, their sense of place and their sense of identity, particularly now that they are ageing in the context of migration.”
Simona is herself originally from the picturesque town of Campobasso in central Italy, so has her own unique perspective on UK life.
Speaking about her film earlier this year, she added: “I can consider myself both Italian and English. My identity has been shaped and enriched by the places where I have lived so far.
“Moreover, I think that living and working in different countries helps you to appreciate diversity. And I believe this is an important value.”
To find out more about the festival, head here.
Meanwhile Age is Just a Bingo Number has its own Facebook page here.