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Cannes showing of medieval Southampton's Sir Bevois
Sword fight
The film will be shot in Southampton's medieval locations

A new short film telling a little-known tenth century legend is being shown at the Cannes film festival

Southampton is at the centre of the legend of Sir Bevois which was told by minstrels and storytellers across Russia and Europe up until the 17th century.

He is said to have founded the city of Southampton.

The producers of To Unwill a Heart hope it will also reveal more of a little-known part of the city's heritage.

Epic story

The legend tells 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.

Sir Bevois and Princess Josian

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 although evidence for the legend can be found in the medieval Auchinleck Manuscript , now held at the National Library of Scotland.

Completely true or not, there are echoes of the legend in Southampton place names 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.

Knight at the movies

Bringing the legend to life on the big screen has been the brainchild of Gela Jenssen, a professional film director and associate lecturer at Southampton Solent University, who are funding the project.

Filming of the 15-minute short was completed around Southampton over two days earlier this year,

It is being shown as part of the Short Film Corner at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival from 12 - 22 May. Gela is hoping to tap into networks at Cannes to find potential collaborators to help make develop the project into a full-length feature.

She said: "It's very exciting - I'm happy with what we've produced and it's great to celebrate we've got it into a major film festival."

Lions at the Bargate
The lions at the Bargate represent those slain by Sir Bevois

Local location

Gela 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?"

The film was developed with the help of a team of Solent University lecturers and film experts, as well as local historian, Genevieve Bailey with actors recruited from across Southampton's communities.

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.

Gela Jenssen said: "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.

Gela Jenssen said: "They are so beautiful and completely under-rated."

Local treasures tell world story
15 Jan 10 |  History

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