@BaftaScotland Screening: The Place Beyond the Pines

At what point do an awful series of events begin, and how can they brought to an end? Derek Cianfrance toyed with such questions in his previous feature Blue Valentine – the difficult story of two lovers bound to one another for reasons beyond immediate understanding, despite the intense misery their life together entails. His latest film goes beyond the claustrophobic intensity of a dysfunctional relationship to examine the inevitability of fate and of failed attempts at redemption across a tapestry of tragically connected stories. The Place Beyond the Pines is the story of  a carnival daredevil (Ryan Gosling) whose failed bank robbery leads him to a tragic episode with an idealistic cop (Bradley Cooper), changing the fate of both men, and their families forever.

It is Cianfrance’s genius in Beyond the Pines is to explore, through these intricately and intimately woven stories, the unfolding tragedies that, through human weakness, cannot be confined to a discrete moment in time. As the narrative unfolds the audience is constantly drawn to look closer at the chain of events in perspective, towards the minutiae of the circumstantial and seemingly trivial happenings from the beginning of the movie, that suggest that if things had been different the terrible fate of that befalls the two men – and their sons – could have been avoided.

Ryan Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a  nomadic motorcycle daredevil whose work on the carnival circuit brings him into fleeting contact with Romina Gutierrez (Eva Mendes), with whom he has a son, Jason. The new found knowledge of his paternity drives Luke to attempt to provide for all three; first through employment as a mechanic and then through a series of bank robberies inspired by his employer Robin, played ably by Ben Mendelsohn. The bank robberies themselves provide short, spasmodic scenes of intense, dizzying and nauseating action, the speed of helps to portray the fundamental recklessness and impulsiveness of Gosling’s character.

When taken at face value, Gosling’s part in the narrative of Beyond the Pines chimes familiarly with his role in Drive – a mechanic-cum-bank-robber drawn to care for a mother and her child – an it is tempting to make the equation. Yet the character of Glanton is very different to the Meursault-esque character played by Gosling in Drive. Glanton is sociopathic, talkative and highly emotional young man, whose reasons for caring for the welfare of the mother and child are obvious – somewhat the reverse of Gosling’s part as ‘Driver’, despite their obvious similarities.

Bradley Cooper plays Avery Cross, who enters the film during a stand-off with Glanton. Heralded first as a hero, the  idealistic young police officer becomes entangled in the corruption of his fellow officers, only to emerge as someone unrecognisable from his former self, transformed by guilt.

The story then migrates from one generation to the next, focusing on Jason (Dane De Haan), Glanton’s son and the unhappy circumstances which have become his life given what to him are  the unexplained circumstances of his father’s death. This final transition completes the circle as Avery’s wayward son, AJ (Emory Cohen), befriends Jason after arriving

Cianfrance must be credited for managing to hand the plot, like a terrible burden, from character to character through a series of memorable breaks which serve to enrich rather than punctuate the films storyline. In taking pages from the American cinematic playbook – bank jobs, broken homes, car chases, crooked cops and violence – Cianfrance imbues them with an intense realism that accentuates the film’s gritty, somewhat vulgar feel, putting the human suffering that these things cause at the centre of the story, rather than as a peripheral concern.

The emerging director’s penchant for bringing to the surface the regrettable side of human nature can, at times, make   The Place Beyond the Pines uncomfortable to watch, but this is surely a part of its engrossing effect. Trading on themes of catharsis, responsibility and guilt, fate and inevitablity, as well as  masculinity and the role of a father, Cianfrance manages to make a film that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. With Ryan Gosling recently announcing an indefinite hiatus from acting it places an imperative on his fans to catch the last glimpse of an actor whose direction is far from certain.

Alan Mahon

The Place Beyond The Pines will be released at the Grosvenor Cinema April 12. For ticket information visit www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk

The Pan-Asia Film Festival 2013

The 6th-17th of March was an exciting time for world cinema fans as the Pan-Asia Film Festival ran for it’s fifth year in London. Organised by festival director Sumatro Ghose, the festival features challenging films which reflect the changing nature of Asia from Iran to Japan. Along with bringing films by both established and young directors to the UK for the first time the festival also features events and Q&A’s with directors and the films’ stars.

Twelve films ran spanning a wide spectrum of genres including comedy, drama and even animation with the best chosen from a short-list of six on March 18th as the winner of the festival’s Best Film Award. While most of the action took place in venues across London there were also special satellite screenings which took place in Glasgow, Brighton and Leeds.

The festival opened with the UK première of Gf*Bf by Taiwanese director Ya-Che Yang followed by premières of  Headshot (Dir. Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand), Poor Folk (dir. Midi Z, Burma), Patang (dir. Prashant Bhargava, India),   The Revolutionary (dirs. Irv Drasnin, Don Sellers, Lucy Ostrander, USA) and the Hong Kong Young Filmmakers Shorts Programme in conjunction with the Fresh Wave Film Festival which also included and international discussion via Google Hangouts. The première which eventually went on to win the PAFF Best Film Award though was 111 Girls by Iranian director Nahid Ghobadi.

Aside from premières the festival also featured a screening of Outrage Beyond, the latest work by Japanese director Takeshi Kitano as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (dir. Mira Nair, India), Material (dir. Craig Freimond, South Africa), animated feature The King of Pigs (Yeon Sang-ho) and the festival’s first ever late night screening with Tormented 3D by Japanese director Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge).

There were two films shown at the GFT in Glasgow. The first was Gf*Bf which tells the story of a love triangle between rebellious high school friends Aaron, Mabel and Liam. Aaron likes Mabel, Mabel likes Liam but Liam only has eyes for Aaron. The film spans just over a decade which begins in 1985 Taiwan, during a time of martial law, then through to 1990 and ending in 1997 showing how the relationships between the three friends has held up during a time of political unrest.

The second film was Patang which is set in the Indian city of Ahmedabad and gives viewers an insight into India’s largest kite festival. While the festival sets the backdrop of the film, the storyline revolves around a successful Delhi businessman bringing his daughter back to his home town and being forced to face up to the family troubles he left behind. Performances are provided by both professionals and non-actors but both are eclipsed by the bright and colourful cinematography as millions of kites take flight during the day and fireworks light up the sky at night.

 

The Pan-Asia Film Festival seems to have enjoyed a very successful run in 2013 and it will be interesting to see what they have in store next year.

 

Garry MacDonald

A Concise History of VHS According to the Found Footage Festival

Taking time after their hit Found Footage Festival show in the Grosvenor Cinema, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher spoke to A Cinema Down A Lane’s Alan Mahon about the FFF and the enduring appeal of VHS.

It’s a cliché but I really didn’t know what to expect from the At Found Footage Festival which screened as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival at the Grosvenor Cinema on Thursday Marc 21. I vaguely anticipated outtakes and clips that make me cringe more than laugh, and embarrassing home movies that would make the head-in-hands reaction the order of the day. I was surprised at just how funny the Found Footage Festival but at a loss to explain why a night spent in the company of a dead medium left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling that went beyond mere nostalgia. The guys gave me some time at the end of their show to share their insights…

I stated off by asking how the Found Footage Festival came in to being:

Nick: We were bored. We were very bored. Growing up in a small town in the mid-west we needed to find a way to entertain ourselves. We spent a lot of time in thrift stores and garage sales.

Joe (eager to include me in the conversation from the off): You guys call garage sales jumble sales, right? I like ‘jumble sales’ better. I want to find a jumble sale…

Nick: Yea, we just found old clothes and then answering-machine tapes and then we started finding old VHS, like a Mr T video. I was working at a McDonald’s and I stole at raining video. That was the catalyst really. It was so insulting and dumb that we arranged viewing parties for it and developed running commentary and jokes.

Joe: You know how training videos are? They are so patronising. You’re already working this shitty job and now you have to watch this stupid video were everyone is so excited to clean the bathrooms and the toilets. Nick stole one from McDonald’s and that was the start of Found Footage I guess…It became a quest to look in out of the way places for VHS.

The Found Footage Festival at the mercy of lady luck. The guys can only exhibit what they find, and what they find is largely someone else’s junk. But their US and UK tours have broadened their access to ‘new’ material and made this year’s Found Footage Festival more eclectic and diverse as the guys explained:

Joe: It’s a great time to be in the middle of a 50-State tour and a European tour. Everyone is getting rid of their VHS tapes. DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming means that there are tonnes in thrift stores; people even bring us their old VHS to shows. It means that we can pick up tapes from everywhere we go and bring them into the show.

Nick: From our UK tour last year we have ‘Famous Tits and Arses’ [a catalogue of either the tits and arses of famous people or famous tits and arses that are attached to no one really in particular] and ‘Jig Don’t Jog’ [an Irish exercise video that’s only serves to promote false Irish stereotypes and gives the interviewer blushes at his cultural heritage] so we’ve got a few in their from last year’.

The Found Footage told me they had some time to kill before moving on to Leeds the next day and spoke highly of a Salvation Army store close by and wondered if I knew any great ‘thrift stores’. As a true purveyor of knowledge on the Byres Road/Great Western Road’s charity shops I obliged with a few suggestions of my own. I even offered to act as a tour-guide, leaving my name and number, living in hope for the phone call that will surely someday come. I then asked them about why they thought it was that VHS appealed to so many and whether current formats can emulate the appeal of VHS when they become ‘obsolete’?

Joe: I think we are working with a special thing. VHS dominated the market for like 15 years. That’s what everyone watched growing up. How long is Blu-Ray gonna last? VHS was around for a long time so there’s a nostalgia factor to it. It’s like the ‘new’ vinyl because it has that charm to it. It’s a little grainy, washed out, back-tracky…

Nick: But it’s more than just the nostalgia. It’s a unique moment in time for video. It’s the first time that you could bring film into your home – affordably – so it became ubiquitous.

Joe: It was an amateur thing. You just had to press the red button and you had a video. So everyone was just constantly shitting out videos.

It was clear that they Found Footage guys believed strongly that VHS was a populist medium, one with clear eccentricities which became both its fault and its triumph. Because, in a way, we have all made a VHS recording we can all relate to it as a cultural touchstone that goes a long way to explaining  why 100 18-30 somethings packed the Grosvenor just an hour earlier to share the VHS experience.Nick went on to explain that a Jane Fonda exercise video was an unlikely watershed in the history of VHS.

Nick: The Jane Fonda workout tape was such a big seller that everyone wanted to get on that bandwagon. So you got ‘mom and pops’ trying to cash in on it. So it kind of became like the gold rush were everyone was trying to find the next big thing that would stick for home videos. But that meant that you had a lot of unusual, esoteric things that ended up on VHS.

Joe: With DVD you will have better quality sound, video and editing but you will still have shit ideas. But people would rather watch bad ideas on home video.

I was interested in how the phenomena of YouTube affected their work with Found Footage. I couldn’t decide whether viral access to an endless stream of funny videos via the internet was an ally or a foe for their act. So I put it to them:

Joe: We thought it would be an enemy at first, like ‘the competition’. But really with YouTube you get a video in your inbox and you watch it and then you forget about it. With our show we act as tour guides and curators. We separate the wheat from the chaff and annotate the videos for you. That’s what we’ve got that you can’t get with YouTube.

And the tour guide dimension of the Found Footage Festival is really what makes it special and, most importantly, funny. Throughout the show Nick and Joe are keen to commentate on what they see. They repeat aloud the phrases that each member of the audience is running over in their minds and that vocalisation connects everyone in the room and end in collective laughter.

Aside from being genuinely nice guys Nick and Joe are your everyman type. What makes them laugh will make you laugh. They are disciples of VHS, a church we all once belonged to and like good shepherds of the medium they welcome our heretically DVD stained souls back into the warm, fuzzy and amateurish arms of their fold. Extended metaphor over – go and see these guys when you can.

Alan Mahon in conversation with Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher

For more information on the Found Footage Festival’s UK Tour visit www.foundfootagefest.com

Rediscovering the Magic of Cinema: Club Noir, Clark Gable and the Grosvenor Cinema

This Sunday the Grosvenor Cinema will be hosting a screening of ‘It Happened One Night…’ a true Hollywood classic starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. She is a spoiled heiress determined to escape her family and marry her truelove. He is a roguish reporter she meets on the way who eventually charms her. A romantic, screwball comedy with twists and turns it won the Oscar ‘grand slam’ namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Writing. The screening is in association with Glasgow’s biggest burlesque night Club Noir, and will be accompanied by Dear Mr Gable a performance from blond bombshell Katie Crossbones.

 

I chatted with Tina Warren, one of Club Noir’s founders, about burlesque, the silver screen and her love for Clark Gable. First, some introductions. Club Noir is in fact the biggest burlesque club in the world today and in March celebrates its 9th birthday. Based in Scotland it also holds nights London and frequents Edinburgh’s Fringe. DJ’s, bands, performers and acts come together around four times a year to create unique nights of magic and to ‘spread the burlesque gospel.’

The idea of a burlesque club may be off-putting for some but Club Noir invites all and sundry to join in the fun. There is a dress code but it simply requires effort rather than all out-fabulousness. ‘We say dress to impress but don’t not come because you’ve not got an amazing outfit. I know that once they get there they’ll love it and get inspired, confident about what they might want to do next time,’ offers Tina.

‘I love our crowds,’ she says fondly, ‘they are always amazing and up for fun’. So who exactly comes along to partake in this fun? ‘They are the most diverse audience you will ever get into one room. Literally. Eighteen-year olds and upwards, students to millionaires.’ Apparently Tina’s accountant has even put in an appearance. Why does burlesque in particular appeal to so many, and why does defy generalities? Tina credits the quality of the performance, the range of performers and the underlying idea of fun. And not unlike the weather in Glasgow if you are not sure about one act just wait three minutes.

Each night is themed; ‘“The Blitz” in association with Poppy Scotland is happening on the 25th of May featuring music and acts from the 1940’s. ‘We’ve already a lot of people going mad for it, and especially very young people who want to find out more which is really heartening.’  Not one for resting on its laurels I ask how Club Noir intend to create an evening of magic out of something with fairly negative connotations. ‘I think that the whole night will have quite a romantic but sad element, it will be emotional but still with room for laughs.’ She points out that life didn’t stop during the Blitz, nor did fun, an love stories and scandals continued as they had before. ‘More than ever people took care with their appearance. To keep some sense of control over your own little world it was perhaps more important than ever.’ It seems as if there was a very real spirit of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ animating people during this difficult time, one that Club Noir wants to recapture.

This is not the first time that the Grosvenor Cinema and Club Noir have come together; previous showings have included The Producers and The Seven Year Itch. Tina says of the pairing ‘I just think the Grosvener is such a fantastic little cinema, a dream cinema. I couldn’t think of anywhere nicer to do our film nights’. A natural home from home then? She nods ‘it’s cosy, there’s no pressure to fill a huge cinema. It’s like having your having your friends along’.

So why It Happened One Night, and why Clark Gable?  Tina becomes slightly starry eyed at the mention of his name. Masculine is the first word that springs to mind according to my exhaustive survey of six people. Tina agrees. ‘I just adore Clark Gable, he is the king to me he really is. So handsome and masculine, but above being sexy. You don’t fancy him, just a God, so beautiful and charismatic’.

Nostalgic screenings of Hollywood: The Glamour Years are increasingly popular and the stories remain wonderful and inexhaustible, but as Tina points out some have aged better than others. ‘Claudette Colbert (Gable’s leading lady) is dated, she looks very old fashioned in her mannerisms and her look and I love her for that, but Clark Gable doesn’t. He’s just as fresh and exciting now as he would have been then’. Gable is charming, strong but sensitive: the ideal man. And even in the days of untouchable screen icons one who wielded impressive influence on-screen and off it. In It Happened One Night he removes his shirt and is not wearing the regulation vest underneath. The vest was ditched because it was causing problems with sound, but as a direct result, sales of vests plummeted. The Grosvenor Cinema opened in 1921 and Tina talks of her excitement at being able to dress up and watch It Happened just as her grandmother would have done. A little piece of magic not possible in the newer cinemas.

Katie Crossbones describes the act as ‘very elegant and reminiscent of the time. Showing the love and devotion many fans had for such an icon of screen.’ To travel back to the glamour years come along to the Grosvener this Sunday, March 24, at 6.30pm. All shapes, sizes and dress codes welcomed.

Tickets for Club Noir’s ‘It Happened One Night’ can be bought at www.grosvenorcinema.co.uk

Naomi Walmsley

English Filmmaker, Gaelic Themes: Daniel Warren and Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin

Rehearsals are very much in progress as I walk into the darkened Tramway 1. Sound fills the vast room. Intriguing snatches of Gaelic song, mesmeric drone and chirruping, keening avian noises are swirling and coalescing into a somehow cohesive whole. It is being performed by a small, all-female choir of singers. They are clad in black but for boldly red tights which render them appropriately birdlike. They stand at individual microphones, occasionally stock still, occasionally spreading their arms wide, and finally moving in circles as they vocalise.  And projected behind them is footage of the calm sea, seemingly from an archive, the undulating waves providing an equally mesmerising, hypnotic backdrop for this collage of sound and choreography. Then a blackout. Everything stops and the lights slowly come up. The rehearsal for that night’s performance of Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin is over for now and I have a chance to sit down and talk to one of the collaborators on this project.

Filmmaker Daniel Warren has been, for the past fourteen years, at the helm of groundbreaking works such as Mercury (2009), an exploration of the creation of movement featuring highly kinetic slow-motion footage of dancers from the Scottish Ballet, and Whatever Gets You Through The Night (2012), made as part of a large cross-genre event celebrating Scottish musicians, songwriters, playwrights, authors and poets, and featuring such artists as Rachel Sermanni , Errors and Ricky Ross. These stylish, immersive and ambitious films, exploring the effect of environment on art and the physicality of dance and music, chime perfectly with the central theme of Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin. It is  part of the 2013 RIP IT UP season at Tramway and an ongoing collaborative project between Warren, choreographer Rosalind Masson and musician and artist Hanna Tuulikki, who conceived the work. Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin is a work-in-progress exploring the mimetic links between Gaelic song and birdsong, fragmenting and reshaping extracts from Gaelic songs into a soundscape that shifts and adjusts to its landscapes, plotting a connection between the Gaelic tradition and bird communities. I wanted to find out more about Warren’s take on the project and his reasons for exploring Scottish and, with this current project, Gaelic themes in his work.

 

Warren’s involvement in the project began when he embarked on an excursion to the Isle of Canna (Eilean Channaigh in Gàidhlig), in the Inner Hebrides with Tuulikki and several others. During this trip, Warren recorded a “super-8 diary” of the experience, which included a visit to the fascinating and extensive Archive of Gaelic Language, a Study Centre located in the converted old church on the island created by the island’s owner and renowned archivist, the late John Lorne Campbell. During the trip, as creative conversations, performances, choreography rehearsals and vigorous singing practise took place, Warren filmed hand-held in order to gain close, intimate access to the movements of his subjects. While there, he also worked extensively with sound recordist Geoff Sample, who recorded everything from the noise of the ferry transporting passengers to and from the island to, of course, the plethora of bird species prevalent on Canna, from gulls to oystercatchers, swallows to a lone cuckoo signalling the coming of Spring. He explained that he felt shooting on film worked better than it would have had he used digital equipment, and looking at the diary, the scratchy super-8 quality lends it a timelessness and, there’s that word again, mesmerising quality. As the singers engage in a rehearsal, their staccatto vocables combine with stunning footage of the island at dusk, the clouds violet and blue in the fading light, the moon a faint crescent. The singers stand in a circle, throwing short, keening notes at each other, with Warren’s camera constantly alert and on the move. It is a highly evocative glimpse into not only the formative creative process but how the enchanting surrounding environment helps these ideas to flower and take shape.

Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin began, says Warren, with a strong, solid concept and idea, which he says is vital when you’re working exponentially and in a very elastic way, where fresh ideas and suggestions are constantly being explored. To this end, Warren was initially editing his footage for the Tramway performance as the singing and choreography rehearsals were taking place, his edit suite with him in the theatre. This close proximity to the music and movement of the performers helped him judge what sort of footage to use to accompany certain sections of the music and dance.

Warren’s diary and the Tramway performance are just two steps in the continuing progress of Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin. There are at least two more trips to Canna planned, while a nine-vocalist version of “Guth an Eòin,” the central musical piece, will be debuted at Tectonics at the Old Fruitmarket on the 11th of May. Warren is also about to undertake The Nation Live, a major project for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery exhibiting not only artworks from many and varied participants on key historical moments in the nation’s history, but five short pieces of video artwork directed by Warren and focusing on the themes of “Civil War,” “Faith,” “Union,” “Roots” and “Work.”

Warren’s explanation as to why, as an English filmmaker, he feels drawn to Scottish themes in his work is straightforward. He has been living in Scotland since 1994, loves being here and will always be here. His enthusiasm for the landscape and islands of Scotland is clear, as he relates how he first became aware of them by sifting through his grandfather’s Readers Digests, and how he likens his travelling to and “collecting” islands to a climber collecting Munros.

And what of the Gaelic tradition? What has he discovered about it during his work on Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin? He explains that one of the most thrilling moments on Canna came when he witnessed the singers rehearsing Gaelic songs with the revered Gaelic singer Mary Smith, paying attention to the enthusiasm, persistence and dedication of the singers to ensure correct phrasing and pronounciation of the words, something which as a first-language Gaelic speaker I can relate to. The Gaelic oral tradition is brought to mind not only by the manner in which the singers worked on their songs, but by the piece’s score, which Warren shows me. It is written in vocalisations rather than music.

Warren explains to me that in undertaking projects such as Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin, he is hoping to explore notions of identity, whether in Gaelic culture or in the bird community. His work aims, in its immersive style, to passionately, responsibly and innovatively explore the myriad of factors which add up to a nation’s identity. There is no trace of cynicism or any sheen of distance in Warren’s footage. Both in his evocative video diary and accompanying footage to the Tramway performance of Air Falbh Leis na h-Eòin, Warren attempts to show that song, oral communication and physical movement, whether in the Gaelic or bird communities, are as central to the identity of the islands as the surging ocean waves, and are as woven into the fabric of the landscape as the magnificent crags and sea cliffs.

Seoras Campbell

5 O’clock(ish) Review: The Paperboy

The Paperboy feels a long time coming. It was released nearly a year ago in the US and received a cool reception at Cannes in 2012. But now here it is, sweat soaked and urine stained.

Nicole Kidman plays Charlotte Bless, a sexually charged ageing blonde with a ‘thing’ for bad men. Her would be lover Hilary (Cusack) is in jail for a murder he may or may not have committed and Charlotte persuades Ward Jansen (McConaughey) to return home with his writing partner Yardley (Oyelowo) and tell the real story. Ward’s younger brother Jack (Efron) acts as driver for the investigation and becomes besotted with Charlotte. Set in Florida during a heat wave and in the age of polyester, it is humid in every sense.

 

As director, Lee Daniels has pulled no punches in amped up action that revels in colour. High angled, bright lit camera work uses the glare of the everglades to great effect in moments of lustful dreaming or loss but elsewhere it feels overdone. The plot and pace jar with each other and as one holds back the other surges forward sloppily. The smaller scenes that require intimacy, notably between Jack and Anita (played by Macy Gray) are better pitched and the story as whole still comes together. Adding to this is the fine wardrobe choices create a cohesive aesthetic and crystalise the standing of each character.

A lot has been said of the “jellyfish scene” (that’s where the urine comes in) but really it is less shocking than the tension surrounding the less than complete de-segregation of the swampy town around it. More eye-popping is the very public conjugal visit between Charlotte and Hilary. Some spectacular violence that doesn’t shy away from guts in the most literal sense weaves in and out, underpinning the visceral nature of the story on a swamp.

Excellent performances all round, and especially Kidman as a woman oozing sex whilst remaining vulnerable. Zac Efron has thoroughly shrugged any Disney overhang lithely lounging as Jack and the McConaughey resurgence continues in fine style.

Some laughs, more shocks, a great story with unexpected turns slightly overblown plus buckets and buckets of fluids.

The Paperboy is now playing in the Grosvenor Cinema. For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk

 

Naomi Walmsley

What Can We Expect From ‘The Spirit of 45’?

On March 17 at 3 pm  43 cinemas across the Britain, from Southampton to Aberdeen, will be screening Ken Loach’s new documentary feature The Spirit of ’45. The one-off screening will be followed by a live simulcast Q&A with the director, author Owen Jones and the National Pensioners’ Convention general secretary Dot Gibson. The simultaneous screening across the country is one of the most eagerly anticipated cinematic events of recent times. Indeed, rarely has a documentary feature prompted such a national debate before its release as has The Spirit of ’45.

Promotional material for Loach's upcoming documentary 'Spirit Of '45'

Promotional material for Loach’s upcoming documentary ‘Spirit Of ’45’

For those few who have escaped Ken Loach’s television and radio appearances or the awesome social media campaign that has accompanied The Spirit of ’45 it is worth going over just what exactly the documentary deals with. The Spirit of ’45 is, according to its official synopsis, ‘an impassioned documentary about how the spirit of unity which buoyed Britain during the war years carried through to create a vision of a fairer, united society.’ It is a documentary about how the collective sufferings of war galvanised the British people and manifested itself in a welfare society, buttressed by a welfare state predicated on a national health service and nationalised industry. The documentary aims to capture and rejuvenate the beginning of a truly social epoch in British history – an epoch that many today believe to be confined to a lost past or a semi-fictional, black and white existence on the dusty reals of British Pathé archives.

But The Spirit of ’45 has served a dual function. For the left in British politics it provides a visual polemic against Osborne and Cameron’s policies of austerity and cuts. The documentary is as much an alternative social and political narrative for contemporary Britain as it is an ode to a spirit of the past. This narrative is that what we have achieved once we can achieve again and create a better society in 2013. Indeed this subtle, yet powerful, rallying call for all socially minded citizens owes much to The Spirit of ‘45’s awesome social media campaign. Following @TheSpiritof45 or #Spiritof45 has circumvented the political debate carried in our traditional media and allows people to imagine not only what life would be like for them in 1945 but also what can be achieved through a unity of purpose in bleak economic times, like those we face today.

An outspoken champion of the working classes, Ken Loach is not afraid to make political arguments through his work, nor is he a stranger to creating a legacy through his films. The homeless charity Shelter owes much to his 1966 BBC Wednesday Play Cathy Come Home which inspired a generation of middleclass Britons to deal with social problems they were previously wilfully ignorant to. While many pundits may be uncertain as to what lasting legacy The Spirit of ’45 may leave, it is clear that Loach himself considers the safeguarding of the future of the National Health Service to be the focal point of any such legacy, the real gain from a documentary he calls ‘an act of rebellion’. Whatever is to come out of The Spirit of ’45 this March 17 it is clear Loach and his team have done enough to put the spirit of ’45 on the political agenda in 2013.

The Spirit of ’45 and simulcast Q&A will be screening in a one-off event at 15.00, Sunday March 17.

For ticket information visit grosvenorcinema.co.uk. Follow @TheSpiritof45, #Spiritof45 and @cinemadownalane on Twitter to join in the debate.

Alan Mahon