To conclude their season at Canary Wharf Screen, BFI presents a double bill of feature-length creative archive documentaries that tell the story of the century and chart the history of film itself. Both films move more or less chronologically across one hundred years of archive footage, in and out of film formats, from hand-cranked 35 mm to 16 mm, Super 8, videotape and digital technologies, nitrate and safety film. The effect of this is a rich montage of colours and textures, expressing a range and diversity of ideas within the focuses of the two films’ contrasting locations: city and coast.
Director Penny Woolcock, UK, 2012
This breath-taking film by award-winning director Penny Woolcock is a lyrical portrait of Britain’s unique coastline, travelling through both World Wars and during peace time into the modern age, showing it as a place of leisure, industry and wild nature. With an emphasis on the romantic ans the ritualistic, the archive footage used within
the film is rich and varied, with memorable images including a woman scaling a sheer cliff to collect eggs, a troupe of dancers on a pristine beach, the Thames and trading in East London, the arrival by ship of émigrés from the Caribbean and India, the building of the Channel Tunnel, a group of Edwardian gentlemen playing beach combat games on the verge of World War I and present-day holiday makers battle the elements in Blackpool. The band British Sea Power have captained this cinematic voyage with an original score that ebbs and flows with the natural sounds of seagulls, ships and snippets of speech to create a deeply compelling and uniquely uplifting film experience.
London – The Modern Babylon
Director Julien Temple, UK, 2012
The latest film by legendary director Julien Temple (The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, Oil City Confidential) is an epic time-travelling voyage to the heart of his hometown using archive film and music to show how London’s immigrants – musicians, writers and artists, dangerous thinkers, political radicals and regular folk – have transformed the city into a global metropolis. Reaching back to the dawn of film at the start of the 20th century, the story unfolds in a vivd stream of urban consciousness, twisting like the river Thames itself. Moving back and forth in time and texture, the film’s recurring themes resonate throughout recent history: oppression and despair, division and rioting, accommodation and union. Just as turning a London street corner can surprise us with something exciting or bizarre, this vibrant film is peppered with extra ordinary images, from everyday surrealism to extreme events, from famous faces, politicians and royalty to ordinary people, all of us Londoners.
From the Sea to the Land Beyond was commissioned by The Space and first performed live by British Sea Power at the Sheffield Doc Fest in June 2012.
From the Sea to the Land Beyond is available on BFI DVD from January 2013
London the Modern Babylon is now available on BFI DVD