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The Hastings Way to Film

Is there a Hastings school of film? A style of film-making distinct to the area and its people? After all Hastings “is one of the most creative parts of the UK” as artist Gary Dorking remarked recently here in Hastings Online Times. A recent programme of films under the title ‘Arrow in the eye’ at the Electric Palace on May 13 sought to answer this question, and Richard Hull watched and listened with keen attention.

In introducing the evening curator Mark French said that “the area has always held a fascination for the camera” and the collection of films was ample proof of this. Mark suggested that the films could be grouped into two strands – those inspired by the natural world and those focused on the social mix. For me, however, there were three distinct groups of films.

Water, Wind and Light

Inspired by nature but in particular the qualities of this area in the mix of water, wind and light, this group of films gave expression to a full range of reactions and interactions with these forces of nature. The most powerful, and for me the outstanding film of the evening, was Rebecca Marshall’s ‘Glitter and Storm’ which gave an entirely new meaning to the idea of talking heads. Imagine treading water in the sea filming someone a few feet away, just their head showing, telling you the pleasures of the sea. Now imagine many more people, all telling their different stories. Superbly edited, this was a joyous, witty, visually glorious and enlightening insight.

Equally joyous was Richard Heslop’s ‘Summer Breeze’ which richly deserves its status as a classic. Made back in 2007 it is pure fast-forward Hastings sea breeze fluttering its way through flags, flaps and anything else catching the wind. Also immersed in the windy coast, Kate Adams’ ‘New Year’s Day’ was a more heavyweight and provocative study of her son Paul Colley as he circles apparently aimlessly on the wind-battered sand. Kate has recently been awarded an MBE for her work with Project Art Works, using art as therapy for disabled people.

The evening opened with Katrin Magowitz’s ‘Big Sleep’, produced by Mark French. The quiet poignancy of burial is eerily juxtaposed to the sounds of cliff-top winds. Strangely moving. Finally, Nick Snelling’s ‘Pier’ gave us an intriguing and shifting view filmed entirely under water – apparently the coastguard were alerted once due to sightings of his seemingly abandoned kayak.

Voice

The second group all give prominence to the voice of their subjects in various ways. Mark French’s superb portrait of Hastings artist Letitia Yhap, ‘The Catch’, essentially doubles her voice as it explores in depth – through the words of the artist and her fisherman subjects, and through visual elaboration – the roots and developments of her renowned paintings. The un-named subject of Catharine Brown’s film ‘Sussex Posy’ needed little amplification as he explained in delightful detail his traditional art of making the wild-flower posy, a thing of beauty which emerged magically from his substantial builders’ hands.

The dialogue for Andrew Kotting’s ‘Edgeland Mutter’ was written by Ian Sinclair and gave voice another meaning entirely – maybe it is a difficulty I have with Sinclair’s writing, but the fact is that I can’t remember a single piece of the dialogue – perhaps this was deliberate, given the film’s title? Visually intriguing, nevertheless. Finally, Nick Pilton’s ‘Present’ gave voice in the usual sense to a selection of fictionalised young people of this area, with brief life-story snippets illustrating the difficulties faced by many.

Image

The final group of films were characterised by their radical experimentation with the visual capabilities of the filmic medium – in two cases using the layering of images upon each other, and in the third case playing rather cheekily with the colour balance. Indeed the latter film’s tile of ‘Bitter Lemon’ accurately reflected the acidic quality of both the colours and the sound in this playful celebration of Bollywood by Director Maika Compton which was the winner of the 2010 Hastings Film Challenge. Nicola Bruce’s ‘Acts of Memory’ paid homage to the local interest in ritual, with overlaid images and sounds from a variety of Hastings events such as Jack in the Green and the Bonfire. Finally Toby Tatum’s ‘The Subterranean’, which originated from a film night at the Electric Palace focused on underground worlds, used a very subtle shifting of overlays to express the peculiar consciousness required for true access to the earth’s nether regions.

Summing up, the evening succeeded admirably in demonstrating a lively, vibrant and distinct style of Hastings film-making. It is perhaps best characterised as blending the old – the ritualistic, magical, eerie and nature-laden – with new elements of playfulness and ambiguity but also the sheer and sometimes heart-rending difficulties faced by many people today, especially in our area. Here’s hoping Hastings’ folk get another chance to see these wonderful films.

 

Posted 20:18 Thursday, May 24, 2012 In: Film

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