Polifilm Blog @ The British School at Rome – Roman Riots

I will not make a habit of writing special edition blog posts but my experiences at the demonstration yesterday left me with much to say and few people to say it to.

Here is a rough assembly of footage from the march and the subsequent riots, I think they might make their way into my film or become a self-contained short piece called “Bread and Circuses” I haven’t decided yet…

Now for the wordy bit…


Today's front page on many Italian newspapers

Today’s front page on many Italian newspapers

A nation-wide day of anti-austerity protest was organised yesterday. The demonstration in Rome counted about 20.000 people and I was pleased to see that the vast majority were a healthy and peacful mix of ages, backgrounds and gender.

What the day will be remembered for however (also thanks to the media’s massive focus on this aspect) will be the clashes between protesters and police.

What I want to write about though isn’t the clashes (Italian newspapers seem to be doing a lot of that without mentioning any of the reasons for the protest; namely the austerity measures of Italy’s third unelected “technical” government in a row) but about the profound disappointment in seeing protesters, who I would side with ideologically behave like fascist thugs
It makes me think of that quote: “If you’re not a liberal at 25 you have no heart, if you’re not a conservative at 35 you have no brain” (apparently Churchill never said these words but still, at the age of 31 I’m reminded of them as I write and I shudder).

Moving on, not-so-swiftly to the main reason for this post, I was surprised and disappointed to see that the protesters themselves were extremely hostile towards me; one trying to rip the mic off the camera and another attacking me with a placard and trying to whack the camera out of my hand.
In the meantime journalists wearing motorcycle helmets (note to self: bring helmet to next demo I intend to film) and the police cameramen (real threat to them being identified) were filming undisturbed.

These episodes shook me quite a bit and I then missed some of the main action when I went off to lick my wounds (not literally) which brings me on to the next consideration:

How brave are those camera people who dive into the middle of the action just so we can see what has been happening?
Amidst the smoke, the shouting, the loud explosions of home-made devices (one protester apparently lost his hand when one went off early) and people stampeding in all directions I found it extremely difficult to get the shots I meant to, focus, framing, duration of shot, all basics of proper filming went out the window as I ran around, scared and confused amidst the madness.
Watching over yesterday’s footage I couldn’t help thinking I could’ve done a better job, especially covering the main clashes which, at one point I simply walked away from.
It certainly was a steep learning curve and absurdly, with the benefit of hindsight I’m looking forward to the next time I’ll be filming in such high pressure situations.

I often sympathise with protesters who defend themselves when police forces try to repress a spontaneous popular uprising. I’m opposed to violence in general but I can see how these reactions (like Egypt for example) stem from true desperation and the impossibility to change things in any other way.

What I saw on the streets in Rome yesterday was different, violent protest has become a thrill-inducing activity for people who clearly intended to fight and who, in spite of their supposed altruistic ideological background had no consideration for other people, not for their safety nor for their intersts.
As for the good that might come of these actions I frankly despair.
The whole demo was easily dismissed as a violent mob making the march of the other 19.700 people meaningless to the broad section of the public who might have been inspired by such broad and popular response to political injustice.

Alas the talk on the town has been about the scared tourists, the clean-up costs and the boy who lost his hand; very little debate on austerity has risen from the ashes of yesterday’s events.


Clashes in Valle Giulia between protestors and police referred to in Pasolini's 1968 poem "Il PCI ai Giovani". These pictures were taken right outside the British School at Rome (!).

Clashes in Valle Giulia between protestors and police referred to in Pasolini’s 1968 poem “Il PCI ai Giovani”. These pictures were taken right outside the British School at Rome (!).

The whole episode yesterday left me quite sad and disillusioned with regard to the possibility of change in this country that I love/hate so much.
It reminded me of a poem by the great Roman writer, filmmaker and philosopher Pierpaolo Pasolini which dates back to the riots of the late 60s but could be applied just as to the events from yesterday.

Coincidentally this morning I fulfilled my “cappuccino e brioche” breakfast ritual at Nacci’s in the Pigneto area where Pasolini himself would often go to have his coffee, I wonder if he thought this poem up there? (I’m pretty sure Pasolini wasn’t taking smartphone pictures of front page protest-related photos so he could post them in his blog… then again, if he could have he probably would’ve).

This is a fairly literal translation of and excerpt of the poem but it is the best the internet could offer and it saves me having to translate it myself.
The original text can be found here.

IL PCI AI GIOVANI  <The PCI (Italian Communist Party to the Youths> (1968)

Its sad. The critique of
the pci should have been done in the first half
of the past decade. You are late, children.
And it doesn’t matter that at the time you were not born.
Now the journalists of the entire world (the t.v.
ones included)
kiss your (as they still say, I think, in
university) ass. I don’t, friends.

You have the face of daddy s boys.
Your clean appearance doesn’t lie.
You have that mean look.
You are afraid, uncertain, despairing
(very good) but you also know how to be
spoilt, scheming and arrogant:
petit-bourgeoise values, my friends.

When you were at the Villa Giulia yesterday you brawled
with the police,
I sympathised with the policemen!
Because policemen are sons of the poor.
They come from the outskirts, urban and rural.
As for me, I know well,
I know how they were as little kids and young men,
the precious penny, the father who never grew up,
because poverty does not bestow authority.
The mother calloused like a porter, or tender,
because of some disease, like a little bird;
the many children, the hut
among the orchards overgrown with red weeds (on someone else’s
land); the slums
over the sewers;or the apartments in the vast

council estates, ecc. ecc.
And, look how they dress them up: like clowns,
with that rough cloth that stinks of
uniform and poverty. Worse of all, naturally,
is the psychological state to which they are reduced
(for a handful of dollars a month):
with no more smile,
without any friends in the world,
excluded (in an exclusion without equals);
humiliated at the loss of their human values
in exchange for police ones (being hated breeds hatred).
They are twenty, your age, my dear boys and girls.
We are all obviously against the institution of the police.
But try going against the courts, and then you’ll see!
The boy policemen
that you, out of the sacred violence (of the venerable risorgimento
of the daddys boy, have beaten,
They belong to the other class.
At Valle Giulia, yesterday, occurred an instance of
class war: and you, my friends (although on the
right side) you were the rich,
while the policemen (who were on the
wrong side) they were the poor.A nice victory, then,
yours! In these cases ,
to the police you should give flowers, my friends

(Please not that this is an exerpt of the poem which is 4 times as long and Pasolini twists and turns, changing his mind as too who is at fault throughout)

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Polifilm Blog @ The British School at Rome – Week #1

The BSR entrance

The BSR entrance

So here we go: putting aside my natural dislike of blogs, which I often rate as glorified public diaries with very little to offer their readers, I’ve decided to write a brief weekly account of my time as a resident at the British School at Rome.


First things first: it is actually The British School AT Rome, not IN Rome.
For the purposes of this blog I ran a quick survey asking staff and librarians in the hope of finding out why it is “at” and not “in” but alas came back empty-handed.
It remains for the time being a curious mystery (though I would’ve preferred a good old anecdotal bit of trivia to kickstart this blog… but there you go).


The reason I’m here is that I was selected to be this year’s resident at the BSR for the Creative Scotland Document24 fellowship in documentary filmmaking.
I must confess it is a pretty amazing deal (and I count my blessings daily): three months in Rome, being fed and housed, with a bursary to fund your work and no commissioning editors lurking over your shoulder making sure you’re making the film you promised at the pitch!

This sort of freedom is a rare luxury in a world guided by market rules and I’m really excited about the many possibilities that this time/space/bursary offers especially in terms of exploring the medium of moving image and developing my own documentary language.

The BSR itself is a surreal institution; housed in a beautiful Neo-classical building in a well-to-do area north of Villa Borghese it is a bubble of Britishness amidst Roman chaos. Within an hour of arriving I had sipped my afternoon tea with shortbread and played tennis with fellow residents; for those of you who don’t know me, these activities are pretty unusual in my day-to-day life even back in the UK, however I decided to dive into the experience wholeheartedly and to go with the flow in what is to be my home for the next three months.

My studio/room @BSR

My studio/room @BSR

Here life is very regimented, we even have a bell to call us to meals (the fact that it is a Neapolitan who performs this task with Swiss-like precision is yet another example of what becomes possible in this parallel universe!)
More seasoned residents will know what food we’ll be eating or whether there will be candles or drinks receptions just by the day of the week.

I myself have slipped into the routine here effortlessly in this first week, getting to enjoy the hang out with other artists and scholars in the evenings and finding that work is much easier in my spacious and bright studio than it is in my cluttered and messy office back home.


Outside the walls of the BSR Rome carries on at its simultaneously hectic and leisurely pace; the city itself is full of contradictions which in itself makes it a great playground for a documentary filmmaker.
My whole project in fact (working title Roman Postcards [#RomanPostcard on twitter]) is centred on the coexistence of very different worlds within the city’s boundaries: on one hand the tourists’ romanticised and dreamy experience of amazing architecture, art and history that can be found round every corner with a sprinkle of Italian style and cuisine thrown in for good measure, on the other hand the city itself, a bustling metropolis in which real Romans deal with the hardships of Italy’s current economic crisis or struggle through rush-hour traffic. Every duality you can imagine coexists in a what appears to be a well-tested and miraculously sustainable balance: religiousness and sacrilegiousness, far right and far left, noise and quiet, authenticity and tackiness, tradition and innovation, aggressiveness and generosity…

The list could go on but I think it’s about time I get out of the cosiness of my studio, hop on my bike and dive into the city for my day’s work.
Today I’m going to try and catch the gypsy pickpockets in action at the Colosseum with my telephoto lens and to meet to meet a gladiator who wants to drive rickshaws thus breaking the family line of photo-op gladiators… just another doc-making day in Rome.

More on my BSR residency and the film’s progress next week so watch this space!

Tomás Sheridan

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Blackburn Kids complete doco on Susan Boyle as part of Polifilm workshop

So proud of the kids who took part in the Polifilm workshop in the former mining village of Blackburn, West Lothian over the past three months.
We had our highs and lows but in the end they really got into the project and nailed it!

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Radiostan @Decagram1.2

Radiostan@Decagram1.2Had an amazing night with great Q&A at Edinburgh’s latest Decagram event. Radiostan went down well with the audience getting involved and asking questions.

Decagram holds monthly events with films music and visual art, it is definitely a night out with a difference, strongly recommend it!

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Finding Josephine will be 3rd Polifilm short at London Short Film Festival

Finding Josephine is due to screen at London Short Film Festival January 13th 2014 at 1830 in Cine Lumiere.

We’re super-pleased to be recognised yet again by this vibrant and eclectic festival in its 11th year.

Details about screening.


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Livingston Lives Premiere Announced

Livingston's 50th_coloor_highres




The screening of Livingston Lives will take place on Thursday 6th of March 2014 at at the Howden Park Centre (Livingston -EH54 5AE).

Doors open at 16:30 and the film should screen before 17:30.

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Latest Finding Josephine Festival News

FFinding Josephineinding Josephine is quietly making its way round festivals…

9th Children’s India International Film Festival – Bangaluru 2013
DOKUFEST Kosovo 2013
Erasmus Huis International Documentary Film Festival, Jakarta 2013
Festival Film Dokumenter Yogyakarta 2013

Unfortunately I often seem to find out about these festivals after it’s too late to arrange travel to them…

… In other Josephine-related news we’ll be skyping with her for her birthday on the 19th of December. Thanks to Gary from Plan for sorting this out. This will be the first time we speak to the family since they’ve seen the film!

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Another One Bites the Dust

Livvi posterLivingston Lives, Polifilm’s latest documentary labour of love is now complete.

Commissioned by West Lothian Council with the support of Heritage Scotland this little film celebrates 50 years of Livingston New Town.
Livingson was built from scratch in the 1960s to house the over-spil from Edinburgh and Glasgow’s over-populated working class areas; 50 years and three generations later Livingston has become a town of its own.
the film has not yet had its premiere but as soon as it becomes available online we’ll be sure to include a link.

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Finding Josephine at Take One Action

I’m so proud to have presented Finding Josephine at Take One Action, literally one of my favourite film festivals! Screening in both edinburgh and Glasgow this festival really focuses on thought-provoking, world-changing films. No wonder we are so flattered…

Take One Action Film Festivals is the UK’s leading global citizenship film festival, led by film lovers, artists and globally-concerned citizens based in Scotland who believe that cinematic experiences can inspire lasting change.

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Polifilm Selected for Document24

Tomás Sheridan has been awarded a Document 24 residency by Creative Scotland in collaboration with  The British School at Rome to offer Scottish-based filmmakers the opportunity to work for three months on a project (a documentary in my case) based in Rome. So April to June 2014 I’ll be in the Eternal City working on my next film (wt Roman Postcards)

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Docma 13 Film Lab @Lagofilmfest total success!

I’m so pleased that the workshop at Lago Film Festival with its strict 10 rules of Docma13 resulted in such a cool little film:

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Tomás Sheridan’s “Retrospective” at Lago Film Festival

Carlo Migotto assured me that his “retrospective” of my work did not imply I was old or he secretly desired I were dead. However the screening of Archive of Dreams, Radiostan and Finding Josephine at Lago Film Festival was a total success with questions and audience involvement. This was actually the FIRST ever time that multiple films of mine were screened on a big screen at the same time!

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Finding Josephine to screen at Children’s Film Fest in India

9th Children’s India International Film Festival has selected Finding Josephine for this year’s edition. I’m so pleased that this wee short which is centered on children, on how they see their world and on how they are going to change it.

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Radiostan to be part of BFI’s permanent factual collection

We’re honored to announce that Radiostan, after screening at 24 festivals over 2 years, winning prizes and special mentions, being acquired by Canal+ and distributed by Future Shorts has been invited to be part of the permanent factual collection in the British film Institute’s archive. This means that this wee film with a budget of a few hundred pounds (mainly travel costs) is now officially part of British film history!

Radiostan to be part of the Factual collection at BFI

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Polifilm becomes Cirque du Soleil Casting Partner for Europe

Don’t ask me how but after 3 years of auditions coordinated in the UK for Cirque du Soleil we are now official Casting Partners for Europe which means that in the years to come we’ll have the pleasure of attending, coordinating and filming many more great auditions held by talent scout Marc-André Roy. It’s a bit of a departure from our usual film work but we are nonetheless thrilled and flattered by this opportunity!

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Finding Josephine starts its Festival Journeying

fj fest-1

Ok, we’ve been a bit lax with bigging-up Finding Josephine’s successes. Whie we weren’t looking (or rather we were busy with our day-to-day lives Finding Josephine got into various festivals and in some cases has already screened at them:

DOXA Documentary Film Fest Vancouver – May 2013

Southside Film Festival, Glasgow – May 2013

London Eco Film Festival – May 2013
One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, Prague – February – December 2013

Gdansk/ Streetwaves Festival, Poland – June 2013

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First Uni teaching experience was amazing!!!

DAMS in montaggioApril 2013 saw me teaching Documentary film-making in a University in the border town of Gorizia in Notrth-Eastern Italy to some very bright and motivate students who unfortunately are stuck in a loop of theoretical classes without many opportunities to get films actually made. But we changed all this! Starting from “What is a documentary?” through, pitching skills, theatre-style exercises to develop team work and confidence into development and production they managed in just over a week to produce thought-provoking and intelligent documentaries making me a very proud teacher… Nice one guys. Good luck on your path I hope I showed you some new routes to explore ;). Special thanks to Ludovica Fales of Kitchen Sink Collective who assisted me throughout the course and made the whole thing possible with her can-do attitude and enthusiasm!

This is the poster for the Screening of the guys’ films. The theme was “The Border” but we asked them to explore the concept and they certainly did!
Volantino DAMS Proiezione CORRETTO

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#findingjosephine reaches 50,000 views on Youtube!!!

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#findingjosephine gone viral!

FINDING JOSEPHINE is now online as part of Why Poverty’s launch.

I’m very proud of this little documentary about a big subject.

Please share and tweet #findingjosephine #whypoverty.


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Radiostan to Screen @TenderPixel London Art Gallery

Radiostan is still getting picked up 2 whole years since it was made! This crazy little short, shot and edited over km3,500 in 4 weeks in Central Asia and Russia and costing £500 never ceases to surprise me… This time it’s Art Gallery TenderPixel in London screening Radiostan for a curated program at 18:30 on October 9th.

If you haven’t seen this film yet then download a wee program here and get yourself out there to see experimental shorts. I wish I’d been to all the places this film has been, I would’ve visited 4 continents in 2 years averaging a new country a month! Just goes to show that big budgets and lots of time and equipment aren’t everything…

Oh, and this is the event’s facebook page:


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Polifilm Works on Breast Cancer Awarness Video

We’re very pleased to have collaborated with Leith Agency’s on this very worthwhile and humorous Breast Cancer Awareness video. Please share to raise awareness on this important issue!

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Polifilm Media Ltd. is a proud customer of the Co-operative Bank

Changing your account to an ethical bank is much easier than you think. Your money will no longer fund arms, fossil fuel and irresponsible investment banking. You will make the world a better place and send a clear message to our banks: Ethical banking should be normal banking! We procrastinated for a long time before leaving RBS and BoS but now it’s done and we feel much better already.

You can follow the link to switch to Coop Bank or find an ethical bank near you which you’re happy with:


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Polifilm becomes LTD.

So, somehow in the middle of the night with a few clicks Polifilm has graduated to its next incarnation and I have somehow gone from being self-employed to my own employee! We’re now ready to take on bigger projects, bigger budgets and bigger teams! Happy days and welcome Polifilm Media Ltd.

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PoliFilm embarks on the next ambitious project: Livingston!

Hanging out in a day care centre in Livvi

So far we’re deep in research and recces to prepare for our film commissioned for Livingston’s 50th anniversary. So far when I’ve been telling people I’m making a film about Livingston the instinctive reaction has been: “Why?”

Well, I must say this started as a corporate gig but I’ve since discovered that the commissioners are actually after a deep and thought-provoking film about this fascinating town which at first glance appears not to have a history of it’s own. It is in fact a great mosaic of people and stories that have been thrown together by circumstance. the creative juices are flowing here at HQ…

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The best “corporate” gig EVER!!!

We’re so proud to be part of fire-theatre history with our promo&doco about Festa del Fuoco di Stromboli. This amazing yearly festival takes place on Europe’s most active volcano on the island of Stromboli in the middle of the Mediterranean. The videos were a year in the making squeezed between all the other pressing engagements for Polifilm but we worked hard with visionary August Shuldes, the founder, brain and heart of the festival, not to make the usual trite promotional documentary and to capture some of the magic of the event… I hope we have succeeded!

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Tomás Sheridan returns from his jury duty at Concorto Film Festival

I was honored and excited to be invited to be a jury member at this year’s Concorto Short Film Festival in Pontenure (PC) Italy. Apart from their amazing hospitality with lovely hotels, food and wine for the full week, I was pleased to see a large grassroots support for this highly intelligent and ambitious festival in the small town of Pontenure in the middle of the Po valley. The selection was amazing and we found it quite hard to pick the winners but after hours of debate we pulled it off… I strongly recommend this festival if you ever get the chance. back to rainy Scotland now…

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Finding Josephine finished and delivered!

Me and Mango on our way out...

Finding Josephine is now complete!
Here’s the trailer if you need a memory refreshment.

Commissioned by Why Poverty this personal short in which Mango (my daughter) and I travel to Uganda to find the girl we sponsor will have 500.000 potential viewers with over 50 broadcasters involved in the project’s funding. I’ll post worldwide broadcast dates as soon as I know them.

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PoliFilm’s early development on Art of Torture



Here’s a wee teaser for ART of TORTURE, Leo Bruges‘ first feature length documentary.

Jeff is a self-harming artist from Glasgow who has been re-enacting and painting life-size crucifixions of people of all ages and backgrounds to draw attention to issues of human rights abuse. Now, as a centre-piece for his project he is planning an ambitious escapade in the Middle East…

NOTE: One of the side effects of our work as documentary filmmakers is that sometimes we lose the access to characters which we have built so carefully… Art of Torture seems to be on hold for the time being…

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Radiostan on the shores of the Yukon

Radiostan is to screen in the 13th Annual Dawson City International Short Film Festival, April 5-8. The festival is set in the intimate environment  of Dawson City. A town that still retains its Gold Rush charm and is surrounded by the Canadian wilderness. With some luck the Northern Lights will also make an appearance. I so wish I could go all the places the Radiostan tape has been!!!

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Uganda, here we come!!!

We’re very excited about our imminent trip to Uganda to meet Josephine and her family.

We’ve sponsored Josephine for the past 2 years and we’ve decided we’d like to make a personal link with her beyond the direct debit that leave our bank every month, so we started to do what we do best… we started filming. Why Poverty saw the trailer and thought the idea is worthwhile. Now we’re preparing for our shoot in a small village north of Kampala and we’re of course very excited to finally meet Josephine in person!

The film, produced by North Isle Productions and the fantastic Lili Sandelin will be completed by May. Watch this space.

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