Andrew Stevenson's Where the Whales Sing film won the Charman Prize Grand Prize.
Andrew Stevenson's Where the Whales Sing film won the Charman Prize Grand Prize.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 3: Budding filmmaker Andrew Stevenson took the grand prize at this year’s Charman Prize for his documentary Where The Whales Sing.

The win marks the first time in the arts awards’ four-year history that a film has taken the top spot and the decision was unanimous among the judges.  

The documentary tells the story of the migration of the humpback whale through Bermuda’s waters and includes footage of Stevenson swimming in the water with them.

Judges commended the film, which was for the most part narrated by the filmmaker’s 6-year-old daughter Elsa, for “stepping outside the usual formula of the environmental documentary and couching it instead in the genuine passion of the father and daughter in their pursuit of understanding.

“All of us were deeply touched by his daughter’s narrative of a magical whale, that reached out to her father in the breathtakingly blue coastal waters of Bermuda. Their trust in each other and their teamwork is a most beautiful thing to watch.”

Where the Whales Sing previously picked up an award at the 2010 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and other awards.

Speaking moments after the news was announced, Mr Stevenson told the Bermuda Sun: “I wouldn’t have entered it into the award but I did a screening here and they asked me to enter it. It doesn’t feel real. When I started this film I had no experience whatsoever.

“I think that having the child’s perspective gives the film a sense of genuineness and I think that’s what gets to their heart.”

The grand prize winner earned $10,000 for meeting all four of the judging criteria – design and composition, use of materials, distinctive and convincing style, and source of inspiration.

There were winners in four other categories, who were awarded $2,500 each.

Gavin Smith’s Bermuda Though The Eyes of the Young Black Male picked up the award for Distinctive and Convincing Style.

The installation piece depicted the hands of gang members menacingly cocked in the shape of guns but with messages written on them explaining their plight.

Founder and CEO of charity The Chewstick Foundation, Mr Smith is better known for his musical performances but he is no stranger to visual arts having studied in art school and worked as a graphic designer for many years.

Furniture restorer and artist David Mitchell won Use of Material for his Bermuda Cedar Chest on Stand.

His comment beside the piece was: “The cedar chest is the quintessential piece of Bermuda furniture and historically made in the latest fashionable style. I see no reason for chests to become trapped in design and perpetually reproduced. Bermuda Cedar Chest on Stand is my response.”

Graham Foster’s surreal Return to Rainbow Country, representing the island’s fall from fortune, earned him the Design and Composition award. Inspired by the artist’s Hall of History mural in Dockyard, the painting asks the question whether Bermuda can return to happier times it once enjoyed.

Finally, Jacqueline Alma’s portrait Janel With Cedar won the Source of Inspiration award. It is the first portrait the artist has painted in seven years and was painted from life over a two-month period.