Cranes, cities, poetry, new film

Film Under The Cranes

By Emma-Louise Williams in Britain:

Cranes’ global reach

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Director explains why her film on ‘local’ living highlights universal issues of migration and regeneration

When I first saw Michael Rosen‘s play for voices Hackney Streets in 2008 I was so moved by this collage of voices and lives which moved across time and space that I wanted to engage further with it.

So I had the idea of taking Michael’s original piece of writing and making a textured, audio-visual art piece with it – a “film-poem,” as it’s been called.

I started making Under The Cranes – the title is a line from the final poem in the film – at the beginning of 2009 and continued to work on it over a two-year period.

My background is in radio and I had never made a film before, so I just jumped in before I had a chance to scare myself out of the idea.

The film evolved as I worked on it with a tiny team, recording voices, researching the archivex, shooting on super-8 and 16mm film, finding music, editing and recording and creating the sound track.

Under The Cranes premiered in April 2011 at the East End Film Festival in Dalston. With this new run of screenings, I am delighted that we continue to find new audiences for a not-for-profit film like Under The Cranes. This is largely a testament to the power of its engaged, poetic writing.

One of the film’s main themes is the question of “regeneration.” This has become a global phenomenon and yet, as an idea and a fact on the ground, it can only be interrogated locally.

Under The Cranes is indeed “local” but what it looks at is happening or has happened in places like Paris, Detroit and Berlin.

The pattern is nearly always the same. There is an area of dilapidated, derelict property in the inner city which comes to be squatted or there are local people trying to use it for shops, cafes or workshops.

The city authorities get hold of it, sell it off to a developer who moves the local people out and “regenerates” the area by putting up blocks and bringing in the multinationals to sell coffee.

The other local-global theme that the film explores is migration, showing some of the struggles – fighting racists, if necessary – that people go through to secure a place for themselves but also how migration brings diversity and the seeds of renewal.

Again, this can only be interrogated meaningfully at a local level though of course it’s a worldwide phenomenon which any audience can relate to their own experience and family background.

In the film I have tried to approach the subject in an artistic way, defamiliarising what we’re asked to look at and inviting the audience to see the places and spaces they live and work in, in a new way. At the very least it invites them to ask questions about how these places are appropriated, owned, used and changed.

I’ve tried to contrast the lives lived by real people across generations with the way in which developers try to get in and make money out of the built environment “in the moment.”

For me, Under The Cranes is an expression of feeling about place and home and the beauty to be found in an urban site, which is why you see in the film the work of three painters who depict the urban landscape – Leon Kossoff, Jock McFadyen and James MacKinnon – just as I have tried to do with the camera.

Under The Cranes is being screened at the Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2 at 7pm tonight, March 6 at Stratford East Picturehouse, May 9 at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green and May 12 at the Brighton Festival.

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