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The Selfish Giant (2013 film)

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The Selfish Giant
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClio Barnard
Written byClio Barnard
Produced byTracy O'Riordan
CinematographyMike Eley
Edited byNick Fenton
Music byHarry Escott
Distributed byArtificial Eye
Release dates
  • 16 May 2013 (2013-05-16) (Cannes)
  • 25 October 2013 (2013-10-25) (United Kingdom)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£1.4 million[2]
Box office$1.1 million[3]

The Selfish Giant is a 2013 British coming-of-age drama film written and directed by Clio Barnard. Inspired by Oscar Wilde's short story of the same name, it stars Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas as two teenage boys who get caught up in the world of copper theft. Sean Gilder, Lorraine Ashbourne, Ian Burfield, Steve Evets, Siobhan Finneran, Ralph Ineson, Rebecca Manley, Rhys McCoy, and Elliott Tittensor appear in supporting roles.

The film had its world premiere at the 66th Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2013, where it won the Europa Cinemas Label Award. It was theatrically released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on 25 October 2013, by Artificial Eye. It grossed $1.1 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics. It gained seven nominations at the 16th British Independent Film Awards, winning one for Best Technical Achievement (for casting), and was nominated for Outstanding British Film at the 67th British Academy Film Awards.



Arbor and Swifty are two teenage boys growing up in a poor and run down area of Bradford in West Yorkshire. Arbor suffers from hyperactivity disorder, which often gets him into trouble even when it is not his intention. When the boys are suspended from school after a fight, they decide to earn money collecting and selling scrap metal. They quickly realize that stealing copper from telecom, railway, and power utilities can be lucrative.

They sell their scrap to a local scrap dealer, Kitten, who owns at least two horses and competes in amateur harness racing. Kitten allows Swifty to work with the horse, once he realizes Swifty's surprising affection for and natural talent with horses. Kitten also lets the boys rent a horse and a cart to collect scrap metal.

Arbor is envious of Kitten's kindness toward Swifty. Arbor decides to steal pieces of scrap from Kitten and sell them, along with some other scrap, to a dealer in Huddersfield. The plan ends up backfiring; Arbor is refused entrance at the other dealer, and when he makes a deal with some men who offer to sell the scrap for him, they recognize it as stolen and keep the money. Kitten finds out and physically intimidates Arbor into stealing a specific piece of high voltage electric power transmission wire to make up for his loss. The boys are not fully aware of the dangers of high voltage wire. Arbor cuts the wire and Swifty helps to lift it, but is electrocuted and killed.

Arbor is devastated and Kitten is arrested, telling the police he is responsible and allowing Arbor to escape blame. Arbor sits resolutely outside Swifty's mother's house. After several rejections, his own mother finds him and takes him home. He refuses any contact by hiding under his bed, until Swifty’s mother finally comes to him.

In a final scene, Arbor takes care of the horse Swifty adored.





The Selfish Giant was produced by Tracy O'Riordan for Moonspun Films, and was developed with support from Film4 and the BFI.[4] Film4's Katherine Butler and the BFI's Lizzie Francke served as executive producers.[5]

Principal photography wrapped in October 2012, after six weeks of filming in Bradford, West Yorkshire.[4] The film cost £1.4 million to make, with £3,000 used to create a real hole on contaminated ground.[2]

In a 2013 interview, Clio Barnard said about her second feature film:

I don't want the film to have explicit political content, but it is there. It's essentially a film about love, deep friendship and loyalty between the two boys, but it is played out in an adult world where something has gone fundamentally wrong, and children are often at the cutting edge of that. […] With The Selfish Giant, hopefully you see what gets lost when that ideology of greed is adopted wholesale.[6]



The Selfish Giant premiered in the Directors' Fortnight section of the 66th Cannes Film Festival on 16 May 2013.[5] In the same month, Artificial Eye acquired UK distribution rights to the film and set it for a 15 November 2013 release,[7] while Sundance Selects acquired North American distribution rights.[8] International sales were handled by Protagonist Pictures.[9]

The first trailer was released on 16 September 2013.[10] In the United Kingdom, the film was simultaneously released in theaters and on the BFI Player on 25 October 2013.[11] It opened in the United States on 17 December 2013.[12]

Awards and reception


The Selfish Giant was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival[13] where it won the Europa Cinemas award.[14] It was also nominated for the 2013 Lux Prize. The film was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.[15][16] It won Best Film at the 24th Stockholm International Film Festival in November 2013.[17] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film five out of five stars.[18]

The film was nominated for the 2014 BAFTA for Best British Film.[19]

It received the Grand Prix for Best Film at Film Fest Gent in 2013.


  1. ^ "The Selfish Giant". Film4 Productions. Archived from the original on 29 November 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2024.
  2. ^ a b Barkham, Patrick (20 October 2013). "Scrapheap challenge: on the set of The Selfish Giant". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2024.
  3. ^ "The Selfish Giant". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Archived from the original on 4 February 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2024.
  4. ^ a b "Shooting wraps on Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant". BFI. 23 October 2012. Archived from the original on 19 October 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  5. ^ a b Higgins, Charlotte (17 May 2013). "Selfish Giant director becomes toast of Cannes". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  6. ^ O'Hagan, Sean (12 October 2013). "Clio Barnard: why I'm drawn to outsiders – interview". The Observer. Archived from the original on 26 June 2023. Retrieved 4 July 2024.
  7. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (17 May 2013). "Artificial Eye in step with Giant". Screen Daily. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  8. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (23 May 2013). "Cannes: Sundance Selects Nabs North American Rights to Clio Barnard's 'The Selfish Giant'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 6 May 2024. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  9. ^ Ramachandran, Naman (5 June 2013). "The Selfish Giant popular with buyers". Cineuropa. Archived from the original on 16 March 2021. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  10. ^ "The Selfish Giant: world exclusive trailer for Clio Barnard's new film – video". The Guardian. 16 September 2013. Archived from the original on 24 July 2023. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  11. ^ Kemp, Stuart (2 October 2013). "British Film Institute VOD Service to Include Day-and-Date Releases". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 19 February 2024. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  12. ^ "The Selfish Giant". IFC Films. Archived from the original on 10 December 2023. Retrieved 5 July 2024.
  13. ^ "List of films in Cannes Directors' Fortnight". Cannes. 24 May 2013. Archived from the original on 22 September 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Cannes: 'Me, Myself and Mum' Takes Home Two Awards From Directors' Fortnight". Hollywood Reporter. 26 May 2013. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 26 May 2013.
  15. ^ "The Selfish Giant". TIFF. Archived from the original on 9 October 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  16. ^ "Toronto Adds 75+ Titles To 2013 Edition". Indiewire. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  17. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (15 November 2013). "'The Selfish Giant' Wins Best Film at Stockholm Fest". Variety. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  18. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (24 October 2013). "The Selfish Giant – review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 January 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  19. ^ Youngs, Ian (13 February 2014). "The Selfish Giant hopes to defy Gravity at the Baftas". BBC News. Archived from the original on 14 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014.