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Students make coffin documentary

Three Portsmouth film students will leave for Swaziland next month to make a documentary about some of the world’s poorest women who are being taught to build a better life by making coffins.

L to R: Megan Evans, Toni Hedley and Maria Sorescu

Maria Sorescu, Toni Hedley and Megan Evans from the University’s School of Creative Technologies, have raised over £5000 to fund the journey to southern Africa. They will follow six women carpenters from East London who will teach Swazi women essential carpentry skills so they can set up woodworking businesses.

The carpentry project, ‘Tools for Life’, is a pilot scheme established by UK charity Positive Women, to offer vocational skills training to women in Swaziland.

The Swazi women researched the local market to identify simple products they could easily make that had sales potential and came up with something rather unexpected – coffins.

Coffins are in short supply in Swaziland – a country that has the most severe level of HIV/AIDS infection in the world and one of the lowest life expectancies at just 35 years old.

Television and Film Production student Maria Sorescu, who graduates today, said: “The story of the Tools for Life project is engaging, emotional and original. To do this justice, we’re planning a 30-40 minute film that charts the journey. We want this film to inspire action and boost women’s confidence and independence, not only in Africa but around the world.

“Coffin-making may sound shocking but it makes good business sense. All the Swazi women involved in the Tools for Life project are living with HIV/AIDS so it’s a constant struggle for survival, but they are still determined to succeed. We are passionate about sharing their story.”

The film will be used by Positive Women to promote the charity’s ongoing work. It will be screened in the UK and the film-makers hope they’ll also be able to show it in Swaziland – to help publicise the work of the trained Swazi carpenters and to recruit women for future courses.

Lecturer Jenn Feray, who will accompany the students, said: “This documentary is a fantastic opportunity as it gives the students the chance to make a film under real-world conditions and deadlines – a stepping stone project that will allow them to really hone their film-making skills.

“The project is a wonderful one to support and I know the students feel that they’re not just making a film, they are making a difference.”

Please watch the students’ promo film here and follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter @ToolsForLifeDoc

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