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In Changing Faces’ “Leo”, the joke’s on you

In Changing Faces’ “Leo”, the joke’s on you

This short film for Changing Faces was shown in 750 Odeon cinemas across the UK in April. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize actress Michelle Dockery. Burn victim Leo Gormley plays the title character “Leo”.


Click “read more” to see the video. How did you feel after watching this spot?

With the dramatic editing, tight close-ups and score for this short film, any man sitting in that car would appear to be a villain … Regardless of appearance. I don’t feel the smug tagline at the end provokes sympathy, rather, it makes the viewer feel tricked. “The joke is on you, we caught you being intolerant!”

Does using condescension engage an audience’s compassion? Compare to this 2008 spot featuring Changing Faces supporter Debbie.

This one puts the audience in the place of a person with a facial difference. It’s much easier to be aware of your own behaviour after watching Debbie’s experience than it is after watching Leo. Debbie’s story reminds me that people with facial differences live their lives as anybody else does. Leo’s film won’t stop me being suspicious of men in trenchcoats during dark and stormy nights.

Accompanying “Leo” is a campaign asking the entertainment industry to stop portraying people with facial differences as evil on screen. The petition notes: “Film makers frequently use prosthetic facial scars, burns and distorted features to indicate that a character is villainous or morally depraved”.

This is true, however, in “Leo” it’s the atmosphere, not the individual’s appearance, that creates the scary scenario for the audience. Mama Hope’s “Stop the Pity” film uses humour and a round-up of movie clips to show how Hollywood negatively portrays African men as “men with machine guns”. It invites viewers to join in with the students and laugh at Hollywood’s absurdity, without insulting the audience. Perhaps an equally enlightening clip show would work for this campaign as well?

Changing Faces
DDB London
Additional credits:
Director: Jim Weedon
Creativity Online

I am Director of Digital Philanthropy at Artez Interactive and not-for-profit veteran. Read more