Horror movie inspired by World Triathlon norovirus outbreak in Sunderland due to premiere at city's film festival

Sunderland Shorts Film Festival is due to take place in May.
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Comedy legend Stephen Fry is featuring in a new horror movie highlighting the pollution of the UK’s waterways which creators say they were inspired to produce after competitors fell ill following last summer’s World Triathlon event held in Sunderland.

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An investigation was launched by the UK Health Security Agency whose findings suggested the underlying cause in most cases was norovirus.

Findings also suggested that “the common exposure of all cases having swum in the sea was the most likely source of infection”.

Black Samphire is going to premiere at Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.
Photograph: Silicon GothicBlack Samphire is going to premiere at Sunderland Shorts Film Festival.
Photograph: Silicon Gothic
Black Samphire is going to premiere at Sunderland Shorts Film Festival. Photograph: Silicon Gothic

‘Black Samphire’, directed by Alexander Vanegas Sus, is a cautionary tale which examines the “deathly spectre” of toxic pollution entering the waterways of our country and the consequences of its damage.

In 2022 a House of Commons Committee conducted a survey of our waterways which concluded “only 14% of English rivers meet good ecological status”.

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A subsequent study by Surfers Against Sewage showed 75% of UK rivers pose a “serious risk to people’s health”.

The film was penned by open water swimmer Cathy Wippell and Silicon Gothic, the company behind the production, has chosen Sunderland Shorts Film Festival to screen the premiere.

Multi-Bafta nominated Stephen Fry plays the role of boss of overworked journalist Mari who has taken her girlfriend, Isla, on a weekend break to the marshes of West Sussex.

The role of Isla is played by Ishtar Currie-Wilson from Netflix hit ‘Lockwood & Co’ and 20th Century Studios horror ‘The First Omen’.

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Isthar said: “I think that horror has always been the leading genre in making significant and accessible cultural commentary.

“With our current climate crisis there has never been a more important time to bring these stories to the big screen. I would expect to see a lot more environmentally focused films within the years to come.”

The film has also been backed by the campaign group River Action UK.

CEO James Wallace said: “What better genre to tell the horror story of the national river pollution scandal than folk horror?

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“By supporting this film, River Action raises the deathly spectre of the collapse of our rivers and wildlife to show viewers that this catastrophe is real and affects us all.”

Now in its ninth year, Sunderland Shorts Film Festival runs from Wednesday May 8 to Sunday May 12 at venues across the city.

For further details and to purchase tickets, go to the festival’s website.

Black Samphire is due to premiere on Friday May 10.

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