Filmmaker David Rose in Friend or Foe?
Filmmaker David Rose in Friend or Foe?

An 89-year-old with Parkinson’s won a prize last month for his debut short film, Friend or Foe?, exploring what ‘control’ means to someone living with the condition.

David Rose, from Hackney, won a Mervyn Peake Award for the two-minute film, starring a ‘talking eye’ in which he can been seen showing off his dance moves to a Brazilian soundtrack.

“My body won’t always respond to my intentions. My feet are the worse, they simply turn a blind eye,” explains Rose in a voiceover at the start of the film while a close-up of his eye, involuntarily opening and shutting, ‘speaks’ the words.

The Mervyn Peake Awards are run by the charity Parkinson’s UK and celebrate the talents of people with Parkinson’s.

“They said make a film that lasts no more than two minutes, and the only other thing they said was that the theme is control,” says Rose.

“To me that meant that although there’s no cure for parkinson’s we can at least try to control things. There are two ways particularly: pills, taken on time every day and lots of them. The other thing is keeping well-exercised. I tried to make a film that illustrated those two things.”

The main section of the film sees Rose look deadpan into the camera while dancing to a song by the Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso.

“I was going to do all sorts of things like get my son playing his saxophone, but then I did the dance and people seemed to like that,” he says.

Rose, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 14 years ago, used to work as a producer and director at the BBC and Channel 4, although a filmmaking credit has until now always eluded him.

He explains that he arrived at the title Friend or Foe? by approaching people and asking them what the word ‘control’ meant to them.

“They said things like prison, regulations, no smoking – things that were rather limiting. But I thought there are also sides to control that are beneficial. So I’m saying ‘is control a friend to us or a foe?’ At the end I knock out the word foe and say it’s a friend. To have some sense of control is friendly. It’s a friendly interpretation of the word.”

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