Saturday, 22 February 2014

Under the Cranes: Collected Reviews 2011-2013



Full house at Rio Cinema, Dalston Feb 8th  2014  
c. mooneyphoto

"A polyphonic meditation on time and urban space, a cinematic version of one of Charles Parker’s ‘Radio Ballads’, this Michael Rosen-scripted evocation of the borough of Hackney is a joyous wonder, an instant addition to the modern canon of filmic London. Super-8 streetscapes and archival alleyways rub up against Al Bowlly tunes and Malian kora music, the testimonies of contemporary Congolese immigrants are heard alongside proud retellings of how anti-fascist Jews purged the neighbourhood of Mosley’s henchmen in the 1940s, and child rhymes hang beautifully over a much maligned and increasingly gentrification-threatened area."  
Sukhdev Sandhu, Critic UK/US  BFI/Sight and Sound DVDs of 2012


"Under the Cranes" is much more than an impressionistic survey of Hackney, although it succeeds superbly in revealing much of that most diverse of inner London boroughs. It really extends the tradition of the ‘city symphony’, launched in the 1920s before film could speak, and Michael Rosen’s collage of voices – historic, contemporary and imagined – creates a constantly shifting counterpoint to the equally varied images that Emma-Louise Williams has gathered. But the stories it tells are rarely predictable: home of the world’s first plastic; a cab-horse’s point of view on traffic (courtesy of Black Beauty); trying to buy the freehold of a tandoori restaurant. Even the expected battles with Mosley’s black-shirts are told from fresh points of view; and paintings by Leon Kossoff, Jock McFadyen and James Mackinnon intersperse the filmic record of Hackney past and present, with Rosen’s poetry giving it a surreal edge. Like another chronicler of Hackney, Iain Sinclair, the film’s makers want to challenge the logic of ‘regeneration’, and show its human cost. This is a powerful plea for a liveable Hackney, that can continue to welcome the world rather than only its bankers and landlords. 
Ian Christie

"What is surprisingly beautiful to me about the film is that we are now free to use material for its intrinsic value and not because of its superior technical quality, which was not so long ago the rule imposed by media and seeing beyond the surface of washed out black and white and faded colour with all the blemishes that film was heir to takes us into history as lived not as pre-digested and re-interpreted."
Roger Crittenden  






“Engaging, gentle, dreamlike – Williams’ Hackney is a layered, shifting place teeming with multiple voices and realities, echoed verbally by Rosen’s collage of reminiscence, characteristically generous poetry and collected urban folksongs. Rosen’s presence reminds us of east London’s reputation as a place of political upheaval.”
Sight and Sound, 2011 

“A wonderfully life-affirming film-poem of place full of lost time and effacements, reefs of street-markets and shop fronts, painted in stock-brick yellows, steel shutter greys and silvery monochromes; and full of people, always people, the voices who have passed this way and called this home. As a collage of the city at its most quick, it has the ache and tug of what has been and gone; as a moving study of resourcefulness, resistance and resilience, it collapses time and returns each story to its street. “
Paul Farley, poet

“ A marvellous evocation of Hackney – the place, the peoples and their dreams too. It reveals the ruin, disconnection and the frailty of life without giving an inch to literary misanthropy or the voyeuristic perspectives in which east London is exploited for tales of misery, depravity and social failure." 
Patrick Wright, cultural historian

“For questionable reasons, in the media, the sight in a market of African textile prints and the sound of a Cockney voice selling tomatoes are separated. It’s untruthful. But the truth is there on Ridley Road Market and it is shot through the film too. And I loved it. This film is a rare thing. “
Lemn Sissay, poet

“This beautifully constructed film urges us to recognise what is already there, at the heart of a diverse and thriving community, while raising the question that perhaps we are all living in the shadow of the cranes." 
Socialist Review


“Under the Cranes is an argument to your emotions. Old grainy archive footage seems to invest even the most mundane scenes with a bitter-sweet glow. When these images are paired with sparse piano or traditional Turkish music – and beatboxing and Toumani Diabete – you’ve got a guaranteed tearjerker. But this film is not about nostalgia. The film finds beauty in trash-collecting, and places modern scenes next to old." 
Quietus Review

“A film-poem that mixes documentary footage and poetry to explore the effect of urban redevelopment on local people. The film weaves together the history of one small part of London in a wonderfully impressionistic way. “ 
Socialist Worker

To book the film for a screening please contact the film-maker, 
Emma-Louise Williams:   emmalouisew@hotmail.com

Forthcoming screenings:

Monday 20 October 7.30 pm  London Fields
London Fields Free Film Festival 
Venue TBC 

Friday 10 October 7.30 pm  Southend
Communities and Asylum Seekers Together:  One World Film Festival 
O'Neill's IrishPub 
119a High Street, Southend SS1 1LH 
07947 442247  

Thursday 18 September 7.30 pm  Hackney, London 

The Bartlett DPU Summerlab Series 2014 LONDON: Localising Legacies
with Alberto Duman
St John The Baptist Church, 3 King Edwards Road, London E9 7SF

Sunday 11 May 5.00 pm The Cube Microplex, Bristol 
http://www.cubecinema.com/programme/view/2014/4/4?daysahead=90#event_7366


Saturday 10 May 7.30 pm Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea

Monday, 27 January 2014

Saving Dalston Lane


SAVING DALSTON LANE
free event – film followed by speakers and discussion 
Saturday 8  February 2014 1.30 pm 
http://www.riocinema.ndirect.co.uk/
107 Kingsland High St, London E8 2PB






The appearance of bulldozers behind the Georgian terrace at 48-76 Dalston Lane prompts a last ditch endeavor to save these significant buildings.  This event unravels a sad tale of neglect and abuse, in the context of a borough caught up in an insane period of ‘investment and development’ and questions the long-term wisdom of the obliteration of old Hackney.  

UNDER THE CRANES (2011) 56 Mins 12A
Emma-Louise Williams
Based on a poetic play for voices by Michael Rosen and mixing rarely seen archive footage with new cinematography, Under the Cranes offers a lyrical, painterly evocation of Hackney, over several hundred years.  This is a film which poses questions about the nature of regeneration in Hackney in the recent period. It also explores the theme of migration, showing some of the struggles that people go through to secure a place for themselves, (fighting racists if necessary), but also how migration brings diversity and the seeds of renewal. 
"...a joyous wonder, an instant addition to the modern canon of filmic London.”
Sukhdev Sandhu BFI

SPEAKERS
Bill Parry-Davies
Dalston resident, Hackney solicitor and founder of OPEN Dalston opendalston.blogspot.com/‎
Presenting his own photographic record of the decline of Dalston Lane, Parry–Davies explains the course of events that culminated in inevitable attempts by the owners to erase the historic terrace for short term commercial gain. Similar examples of insensitivities in the name of progress are also presented.

Michael Rosen
Poet, performer, broadcaster and scriptwriter 
Rosen lived for many years in the shadow of the crumbling terrace.  He is a long-time sceptic of “regeneration” and regards Dalston Lane as yet another example of local councils workings in cahoots with developers in the interests of profits not people.  http://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/
















Monday, 14 October 2013

"Extending the tradition of the City Symphony" - Professor of Film & Media History Ian Christie reviews "Under the Cranes"


7 london fields
London Fields
James Mackinnon, oil on canvas

"Under the Cranes" is much more than an impressionistic survey of Hackney, although it succeeds superbly in revealing much of that most diverse of inner London boroughs. It really extends the tradition of the ‘city symphony’, launched in the 1920s before film could speak, and Michael Rosen’s collage of voices – historic, contemporary and imagined – creates a constantly shifting counterpoint to the equally varied images that Emma-Louise Williams has gathered. But the stories it tells are rarely predictable: home of the world’s first plastic; a cab-horse’s point of view on traffic (courtesy of Black Beauty); trying to buy the freehold of a tandoori restaurant. Even the expected battles with Mosley’s black-shirts are told from fresh points of view; and paintings by Leon Kossoff, Jock McFadyen and James Mackinnon intersperse the filmic record of Hackney past and present, with Rosen’s poetry giving it a surreal edge. Like another chronicler of Hackney, Iain Sinclair, the film’s makers want to challenge the logic of ‘regeneration’, and show its human cost. This is a powerful plea for a liveable Hackney, that can continue to welcome the world rather than only its bankers and landlords.  
Ian Christie


www.ianchristie.org


Next Screening:

November 1 7.00pm  Film plus writer/director Q&A
at Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, London


Monday, 11 March 2013

Making the Film

Under the Cranes, 2011
Image courtesy of Hackney Archives 
Here's something I wrote which was first published in the Arts pages of the Morning Star 13th Feb 2013


"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, (or film-poem, as it has 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!  In this sense, the film evolved as I worked on it with a tiny team, recording voices, researching the archive, 
shooting on Super 16mm and Super 8mm film on 4 separate occasions, finding music, editing, recording and creating the sound track.

The film was completed in March 2011 and premiered in April 2011 as part of the East End Film Festival at the Rio Cinema in Dalston.

I am delighted that we continue to find new audiences for a not-for-profit film like "Under the Cranes" and I think this is largely a testament to the power of Michael's engaged poetic writing.  


One of the main themes which runs through the film 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; it comes to be squatted or there are local people trying to use it for shops, cafes or workshops; City authorities get hold of it; they sell it off to a developer who moves the local people out and "regenerates" the area by putting up blocks and bringing in the multi-nationals 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 "Under the Cranes" I have tried to approach the subject in an artistic way, defamiliarising what we're asked to look at, 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."  

In the end, 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."


Screenings 2013:

February 13 7.30pm Film plus and discussion with Ken Worpole 
at Bishopsgate Institute, London
http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk/blogpost/35/Michael-Rosen-and-Emma-Louise-Williams--How-we-made-poetry-in-motion



March 6 7.30pm Film plus writer/director Q&A 


May  9 7.30pm Film, Spoken Word with Michael Rosen and Live Music from Mansour Izadpanah 
at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green, London
http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/under-the-cranes-film-spoken-word-and-music/

May 12 1.30pm Film and discussion with Rowan Moore, journalist & author "Why We Build" 
at Brighton Festival, Brighton Dome Studio Theatre 
http://brightonfestival.org/event/390/under_the_cranes/

May 21 10.30am Film plus writer/director Q&A Hackney, University of the Third Age 
at Homerton Library, Hackney, London  

May 23 7.30pm Film plus writer/director Q&A 
at Birkbeck, Institute of the Moving Image, London
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/about-us/events/arts-week/thursday-23-may

September 9  7.30pm Film plus writer/director Q&A
at Free Film Festival at All Saints Church Hall, Blenheim Grove, Peckham, SE15 4QS
http://www.freefilmfestivals.org/whats-on/free-films-in-peckham/details/181-under-the-cranes-plus-

November 1 7.00pm  Film plus writer/director Q&A
at Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image, London

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/about-us/events/about-us/events/bbk-local?uid=b68ed4d351a1114d98d2526eb6b2d49f

Under the Cranes, 2011 
To book the film for a screening please contact 
Emma-Louise Williams emmalouisew@hotmail.com




Sunday, 23 December 2012

BFI/SIGHT AND SOUND DVDs OF 2012




Sukhdev Sandhu
Critic, UK/US

Under the Cranes
Emma-Louise Williams, UK 2012

A polyphonic meditation on time and urban space, a cinematic version of one of Charles Parker’s ‘Radio Ballads’, this Michael Rosen-scripted evocation of the borough of Hackney is a joyous wonder, an instant addition to the modern canon of filmic London. Super-8 streetscapes and archival alleyways rub up against Al Bowlly tunes and Malian kora music, the testimonies of contemporary Congolese immigrants is heard alongside proud retellings of how anti-fascist Jews purged the neighbourhood of Mosley’s henchmen in the 1940s, and child rhymes hang beautifully over a much maligned and increasingly gentrification-threatened area.


http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/sight-sound-magazine/polls-surveys/annual-round-ups/dvds-2012-part-3


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Artists' Film: review from Litro Magazine



Artists' Film: Under the Cranes

Under the Cranes (2011)
Cities are challenging, both to live in and to define. They are each a unique life form constructed from many smaller ones. For some they are amazing, baffling or frustrating, particularly for the planners and architects responsible for so much of the life that goes on within them. For others, they are a place for living. You may feel alone in the city but you are actually always among others.
Art provides us with various creative methods for engaging with the complexity of urban environments. "We need art," writes Jane Jacobs in her book The Death and the Life of Great American Cities, "to show us meanings, to illuminate the relationship between the life that each of us embodies and the life outside us." Owing to the intimate relationship it maintains with its subject matter, Under The Cranes, from the first-time filmmaker Emma-Louise Williams, is a lively and complex portrait of Hackney that does not conform to conventional genres, nor does it attempt to explain or document Hackney in any straightforward manner. Instead it is both an artistic response to the area in film and sound, and an adaptation of a “play for voices” about the East London borough, written by the children’s writer and broadcaster Michael Rosen. The film is also a gentle provocation, challenging the rhetoric of council-led regeneration and development initiatives by choosing to focus on the people and the buildings that are affected by various top-down decision-making processes. This focus resists the possibility of the film becoming perhaps too inward-looking, and allows Hackney’s current situation to be considered alongside those of other places around the UK affected by regeneration projects.
The film is incredibly well researched, disclosing various little-known facts about the past and present of Hackney, including its diverse communities and its history of highly skilled manual labour. The adapted script from Hackney Voices is accompanied by original footage of present-day Hackney and rarely seen archive footage depicting social life and events in the borough. It is also interspersed with poignant musical intervals and shots of paintings made of the area that reflect the artistic nature of William’s own response in the film.
In its meticulous research, subject matter, and imaginative, trans-temporal narrative, Under the Cranes recalls the writing of Iain Sinclair, or the films of Patrick Keiller, particularly with the long shots and the static camera. However whereas Sinclair and Keiller both maintain a singular, overarching and authoritative narrator throughout their work, this film maintains the kaleidoscope of Hackney Voices from Rosen’s play. It even brings in more new voices (the old woman who explains, “I used to run the buses during the war… not a lot of people know that” was an addition suggested by Williams).
It was Jane Jacobs who wrote, “Intricate minglings of different uses in cities are not a form of chaos. On the contrary, they represent a complex and highly developed form of order.” Not only is there no master narrator that leads a viewer through this film, Under the Cranes, like the urban environment it seeks to portray, is a delicate “mingling” of diverse components that come together in a similarly complex form of order. The words of Jacobs, “Lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration,” are a fitting epigraph to this film, where spoken words and pictures jostle and interweave in friendly and lively difference.
The editing of sound and images is carefully done and a sophisticated achievement. For example, in one moment from the film, we see archive footage of slum housing from the early 20th Century. At the same time a male narrator recalls the sight of decrepit and falling-down housing, which corresponds with this footage, but suddenly the camera cuts to a present-day shot of the interior of Sutton House and the narrator talks about a man named Burbage building a theatre. At this moment we realise that the voice actually belongs to William Shakespeare, and that we have seamlessly traveled backwards and forwards through time over hundreds of years, simultaneously, in a matter of minutes. The ability to achieve such instantaneous and simultaneous time-space travel is unique to film and brilliantly executed here. It is as the British film artist Tacita Dean explained, “Art on film makes us conscious of the time and space we occupy, and gives us an insight into the nature of time itself.” Chronological time is here revealed to be in fact merely an idea among many others. It is the people in this film, with all their idiosyncratic stories, that are seen to endure.
The film has been accused of being nostalgic, presumably suggesting that the film is in some way delusional (nostalgia in Western cultures was first diagnosed as a psychological illness that inflicted soldiers at war), or that it in some way romanticises Hackney. Beyond the fact that there is nothing romantic about the decrepit buildings, squalid living conditions or fascist, anti-Semitic rallies that feature in the archive footage (as Williams has been keen to emphasise in post-film Q&A sessions), I find such observations about the film to be misjudged. A lot of the archive footage in the film features the lives of working people and their families. When cameras were still a novelty in the everyday lives of ordinary people, they tended to be reserved for celebrations or happy occasions (in fact, they often still are if the pictures on most people’s Facebook profiles account for anything). The early, domestic still-image cameras didn’t work properly unless it was a sunny day, hence giving the misguided perception that it was always sunny, back in those days. It seems unfortunate that the film’s focus on everyday people through its use of the archive might be mistaken for being merely a nostalgic tendency, when it seems more appropriately an attempt to bring working-class people back into the history of what is a working-class area, through a considered use of images.
Under the Cranes (2011). Courtesy of Hackney Archives.
Nostalgia, as Milan Kundera explained in his novel Ignorance, is precisely the feeling of an unappeased longing to return somewhere. The Welsh, as it happens, have their own word for nostalgia: hiraeth, which has no direct English translation but means, approximately, the longing for a home that no longer exists, or perhaps never did. While Under the Cranes makes emotional and bittersweet references to the past lives of Hackney, it never appears to express longing for a lost past. On the contrary, the film demonstrates how much the past and present are intimately connected. It is critical of the loss of London’s progressive post-war social housing initiatives, and their replacement with profit-driven regeneration projects. But when considered alongside other recent works that document and lament these various and seemingly irreconcilable changes—such as Ian Sinclair's book Hackney, That Rose Red Empire, and the more recent London Preambulator and The Four AcesUnder the Cranes stands out for its unique form of optimism. Far from nostalgic delusion and longing, there is instead a sense that overcoming struggle is historically part of the fabric of this area. And history is a bit like a London bus: it goes round and round and, as Rosen’s poem reassures us, “It’ll get there today. And it’ll get there tomorrow.”
The next screening of Under the Cranes will be at the Bishopsgate Institute on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 at 7pm. For more information and to arrange a screening of the film, visit underthecranes.blogspot.com, and follow @underthecranes on Twitter.