Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sir Bevois and Ascupart story to be made into short film

A university film project will be bringing the English legend of Sir Bevois and Ascupart to the big screen.

The short film – funded by Solent University - will tell the story of the Southampton’s legendary founder, Sir Bevois, who spent the most important years of his life in the Middle East, finding love, fighting lions and triumphing in many battles.

Audition dates for the short film - that will be entered into this year’s Cannes Festival short film competition – are scheduled to take place on Saturday, January 30.

Solent University Lecturer and project leader, Gela Jenssen, is looking for talented professional, student or amateur actors with a playing age of 19-29 years to portray Christian and Muslim characters.

Gela says: “It would be fantastic to be able to use local talent to resurrect a largely forgotten legend that has the potential to highlight the historical culture of the city.

Gela will also use the finished film – being developed with the help of a team of the University’s lecturers and film experts, and well-known local historian, Genevieve Bailey – to pitch the idea for a feature film to industry professionals at this year’s Cannes Festival.

The film will tell the story of a young Sir Bevois, the son of Sir Guy, Earl of Hampton who was sold to slave merchants by his mother and ended up in the court of Ermyn, King of Armenia.

The chronicles tell of his adventures and heroic deeds accompanied by his giant page and squire, Ascupart, armed with a magic sword, Mortglay, and a magical horse, Hirondelle.

As with many epic medieval tales, the story has a 'Romeo and Juliet' style romantic element as he fell in love with a Muslim princess - Josian - and fought lions to defend her.

Returning to England to reclaim his father's land, Sir Bevois is said to have founded the city of Southampton. Some versions of the story has him dying on Arundel Tower, part of Southampton's medieval castle, which is still standing today.

Whether the legend is fact or fiction lies in the murky depths of history. The story has been embellished and translated by minstrels and storytellers over the centuries. Southampton has several place names associated with the legend, such as Bevois Valley, Josian Walk and Ascupart Street.

The two stone lions at the city's Bargate represent the two lions he is reputed to have killed while defending the beautiful Princess Josian.

Gela Jenssen has been painstakingly investigating the legend, pouring over old-English documents to piece the story together: "I've done tons of research - it's so fascinating. There is a lot of intrigue - did he actually live?"

Because the story is set just before the Crusader wars between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, the film project is being given a contemporary spin.

Jenssen added: "The Bevois tale is truly epic and very dark, a filmmaker's dream, at the same time so relevant given the current post 9/11 climate and the insight the film can offer into the perception and representation of Muslim/Christian relations, back then and now."

The film will be shot around some of Southampton's medieval buildings including the underground vaults and God's House Tower, home of the city's archaelogy museum.

For further information about the audition process and to view the trailer for the film visit or contact Gela Jenssen on 07939 441268.