Rosie Baldwin, Anna Snowball, Holly Stimson, Hannah Temple | 5:02 mins
This short film created and produced by Four Lovely Ladies Productions surveys life and death; journeying into the open expanse of the Thames estuary on a dated train that runs to the end of the world’s longest pleasure pier in Southend-On-Sea.
We begin our journey led by the camera, exploring the scene as the slow, rickety carriages travel further away from land. The beautifully bleak location oozes with nostalgia and mystery, immersing us in an enigmatic sense of purgatory.. With a change of weather, isolation transforms itself into a heavenly sense of hope, as the train reaches its destination. The filmmakers begin encountering visitors, painting a raw portrait of people drawn to this off-season seaside pier in the depths of winter. The interviews create fleeting intimate moments with strangers who speak of fond memories, regrets and hope for the future.
The day draws to an end, and the train begins its long, slow voyage back to land as the visitors begin to divulge into their beliefs about life, death, lost ones and the after-life. The train arrives at the station and its passengers disembark, wandering off to rejoin everyday life, leaving their time at Southend pier behind – a hazy memory.
Blending drama and documentary styles, Under the Cranes is a beautifully conceived meditation on the multicultural of history Hackney and the changes that continue to shape this part of East London. Director Emma-Louise Williams seeks to counter the prevailing perception of the inner city as a site of failure, ugliness and misdeed through a socio-poetics of everyday life. Breaking with the linear narrative convention, the audience is invited to apprehend the city as a sequence of interwoven vignettes: 'past in the present; present in the past.'
A script derived from poet Michael Rosen's documentary play, Hackney Streets, is layered with graceful location shots and rare archive footage. The film's soundscape mixes poetry, music, folksong and location recordings, while the picture juxtaposes slow panning shots with paintings by East London artists, Leon Kossoff, Jock McFadyen and James MacKinnon. We hear from the famous (Shakespeare in Shoreditch; 'Black Beauty' author, Anna Sewell; and poet Anna Barbauld) alongside a Jamaican builder, a Bangladeshi restaurant owner and the Jewish 43 Group taking on Oswald Mosley in Dalston. Blending past and present, the film offers a lyrical, painterly defence of the everyday, while raising questions about the process of regeneration and the meaning we find in the places we call home.