This year’s Jarman Award shortlist includes Julianknxx, Sophie Koko Gate and more

The selection features “fluid” and “boundary-pushing” work from the UK, with socially conscious themes taking prominence.

9 June 2023


The shortlist for the 2023 Jarman Award has been announced with six artists selected across fields including animation, experimental film and documentary. Despite the wide-ranging approaches present on the list, this year’s artists all create work “characterised by a sense of resilience and joy”, while tackling “tough and complex subjects”, says the Film London release.

Among the line-up is Ayo Akingbade, whose past projects include The Fist, documenting working life in a Guinness factory in Lagos, and Jitterbug, following a day in the life of an 18-year-old student in Hackney – where Akingbade grew up. Shortlisted filmmaker and artist Julianknxx tackles similarly personal themes through his work; his 2020 film In Praise Of Still Boys explored his childhood through the lens of the lives of young people in Sierra Leone.

Sophie Koko Gate is the only animator shortlisted. Her darkly comic work can be seen in the 2020 film Slug Life, which told the story of a woman with slug lovers, and in a string of Adult Swim commissions.


Julianknxx: In A Dream We Are At Once Beautiful (Copyright © Studioknxx, 2022)

The shortlist also features Karen Russo, Rehana Zaman and Andrew Black. Rehana Zaman recently developed a film in collaboration with a group of women affected by the UK Government’s Hostile Environment Policy and prison system; it explored community and solidarity in the face of trauma. Both Andrew Black and Karen Russo use landscape and place within their work, with Andrew exploring political histories beneath the British countryside, and Karen Russo using documentary and narrative to focus on obscure buildings and histories.

“This year’s shortlist continues to reflect the fluid, boundary-pushing work being made within the ever-growing field of artists’ moving image in the UK,” the Barbican’s curator of cinema Matthew Barrington says on behalf of the jury. “The poetic, socially conscious, and singular nature of much of the work connects both to the legacies of previous awardees as well as to that of Derek Jarman, and his large body of politically engaged work.”

The winner of this year’s Award will be announced in November at the Barbican Centre, London.


Ayo Akingbade: Jitterbug, photograph by Mustafa Hussein, produced by Artangel and Museum of the Home (Copyright © Ayo Akingbade, 2022)


Sophie Koko Gate: Hotel Kalura (Copyright © Sophie Koko Gate, 2022)

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Ayo Akingbade: Faluyi, produced by Chisenhale Gallery and Spike Island (Copyright © Ayo Akingbade, 2022)

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Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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