Department of European Languages and Cultures

Meet our graduates: Harry Richards

Having graduated with an MA in Spanish and History in 2020, filmmaker Harry’s short film SANTI was selected for the BFI Future Film Festival 2022.

Harry Richards on set
Harry Richards graduated with an MA (Hons) in Spanish and History in 2020

Inspired by writer and director Harry's own experiences during his year abroad in South America, SANTI is a story about moving away from home and experiencing cultural differences abroad.

It’s a 10-minute proof of concept short film, developed from one scene from a feature film that Harry has already written – and hopes to shoot in early 2024.

Since the BFI Future Film Festival in February 2022, where SANTI was chosen from 1,000 films and shortlisted, Harry has toured 21 universities in the UK, meeting students and staff to talk about his experiences.

In October 2022, the film was screened to 50 students at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), so we sat down with Harry to find out how he came up with the idea for SANTI.

Going abroad

As part of his undergraduate degree in Spanish and History, Harry spent a year in South America. He divided his time between Mexico and Colombia, spending six months in each place, and admits to finding the move abroad challenging at first: “In my first few weeks in Colombia, I struggled to grapple with the local customs, culture and language.”

On his return to Edinburgh, Harry began writing a 90-minute feature film based on his early "feelings of cultural isolation“ and joined forces with another student to develop one scene from the script into a short film.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, which raised more than £10,000, the short film SANTI was shot in June 2021 with the help of 30 recent graduates and final year students from around the country.

SANTI offers a brief glimpse into the life of a young Colombian man who recently moved to London. Realising the importance of including and amplifying Colombian voices in the filmmaking process, Harry invited Medellín-based production company SentARTE to read the screenplay and approached members of the Colombian community in London to find out how the film could best represent them.

In addition, Harry and his team made sure that a portion of their funds go to Latin Elephant, a charity finding innovative ways of including Latin immigrant groups into the process of urban change in London.

Harry explains it was the Spanish teaching at LLC that encouraged him to embark on this project, giving him “the confidence to work closely with Spanish-speaking crew members, including our Colombian executive producers, talent manager and supporting actors, as well as our British-Colombian lead actor and first assistant director.”

Gaining language skills and cultural knowledge

For Harry, one of the benefits of studying Spanish at LLC was the variation of courses offered, enabling him to gain in-depth understanding of Latin American culture as well as the Spanish language.

One of his favourite modules was on Latin American cinema: “During the course, our tutor Charlotte showed us Argentine director Lucrecia Martel’s feature film debut, La Ciénaga — a powerful film which became a big influence for SANTI.”

The translation skills Harry developed in class were also integral while writing the script and dialogue. “Translation classes helped me understand how to convey emotion, feeling and humour through SANTI’s subtitles, as we translated fast Colombian Spanish dialogue into English for our UK-based audience.”  

The Spanish teaching I received during my studies at LLC gave me the language skills to write accurate Spanish for the Colombian characters in our script.

Harry Richards

A supportive environment at LLC

Harry recalls meeting friends to work on group projects and relax in 50 George Square as a student. He highlights the “particularly warm and friendly atmosphere” within the building and considers it a huge privilege to be able to come back to discuss his short film with current students and staff.

“The UK university tour has helped demonstrate the market potential for a full-length version of the film. I’m inspired by all of the people I’ve met while making SANTI, who have shared their own experiences of cultural differences, loneliness and living abroad."

“I’m incredibly grateful that our short film has connected with such a diverse viewership — and every positive response empowers me to work harder to create the full-length feature film,” he says.

Harry also emphasises the support received by the teaching staff at LLC: “The tutors, whether native Spanish speakers or not, always inspired us to be inquisitive about Hispanic cultures and the Spanish language.”

“Their enthusiasm for Latin America was infectious, and motivated me to form my own relationship with the continent: during my Year Abroad, and while making SANTI over the last two and a half years.”

Watch SANTI for free online on Vimeo [external link]

Are you interested in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies?

Founded in 1919, LLC has one of the best-established departments of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies (SPLAS) in the UK, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including teaching and supervision in Basque, Catalan, Latin American, Portuguese and Spanish studies.

Find out more about SPLAS at Edinburgh