THE SELFISH GIANT is a contemporary fable about 13 year-old Arbor (Conner Chapman) and his best friend Swifty (Shaun Thomas). Excluded from school and outsiders in their own neighbourhood, the two boys meet Kitten (Sean Gilder), a local scrapdealer – the Selfish Giant. They begin collecting scrap metal for him using a horse and cart. Swifty has a natural gift with horses while Arbor emulates Kitten – keen to impress him and make some money. However, Kitten favours Swifty, leaving Arbor feeling hurt and excluded, driving a wedge between the boys. Arbor becomes increasingly greedy and exploitative, becoming more like Kitten. Tensions build, leading to a tragic event, which transforms them all.

Director's Statement

The film is based on stories I was told and people that I met whilst making my previous film, THE ARBOUR. I got to know a group of boys between the ages of 10 and 16 who used horses and carts to collect scrap metal. One boy in particular stood out. When I first met Matty he and his best friend Michael, were 14. Excluded from school and diagnosed with ADHD, Matty has had many struggles. Everyone thought he would end up in prison but working with horses and collecting scrap metal has given him a strong sense of self-worth. He found something he was good at and became very skilled and knowledgeable. The film follows Arbor (the character based on Matty) and his best friend Swifty. Arbor begins to emulate Kitten, a greedy and exploitative scrap man. Arbor and Swifty are out of step with their generation, using horse drawn vehicles to scavenge for scrap. Yet in harking back they represent the future. In a declining economy the vision for the future is one of foraging and reusing, making the most of diminishing resources as the post-industrial cities green over and children scavenge through the debris to fuel expanding economies elsewhere. There has been no manufacturing in Bradford since the 1980s and paradoxically the global shift of economic power gives Arbor and Swifty a future, makes their coming of age a possibility. Arbor’s rite of passage corresponds with a broader rite of passage as we enter a liminal phase as the global balance of power shifts, leading to the possibility of social change. By the end of the film, following a tragic loss, Arbor and Kitten gain understanding of what is of real value and turn away from an ideology of selfishness and greed.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Clio Barnard

Written by: Clio Barnard

Produced by: Tracy O'Riordan

Cinematography: Mike Eley

Editing: Nick Fenton

Production Design: Helen Scott

Costume Design: Matthew Price

Original Score: Harry Escott

Sound: Tim Barker

Cast: Siobhan Finneran, Conner Chapman, Shaun Thomas, Sean Gilder, Lorraine Ashbourne, Steve Evets

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2013