PR, Films and Fantasies

Films from the Midlands – archives and screenings in Birmingham

Posted on: March 9, 2011

This weekend I was part of the organising team of this:

Basically it was a two days event put together by the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research which is based at Birmingham City University (my university). Friday was open to professionals and academics from the film and archive industry as it presented the results of some amazing projects financed by Screen West Midlands. They bring together old footage in an attempt to save it from deteriorating (turning film into digital is definitely a huge step in preserving old footage) and making it easier to access and use in new productions. http://www.wevee.co.uk/ is one of the websites which you might find really fun and interesting to use and you could make your own films with a few drag and drops. Also, http://pebblemill.org/ or http://birminghammusicarchive.co.uk/ and http://philipdonnellan.posterous.com/ summarize all the other projects which are dedicated to certain areas of filmmaking in the West Midlands.

Saturday was open to the public and we watched some really amazing films, short films and documentaries. I really recommend all of them, if you can find them:

‘A Touch of Eastern Promise’ was the first British drama with an Asian cast.  Filmed in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, it tells the story of a young Indian boy who dreams about meeting his favourite Bollywood film star when she visits Birmingham. BBC 1973. Written by Tara Prem, dir Michael Lindsay-Hogg, prod David Rose.

‘A Box of Swan’ follows John (Adrian Dunbar) as he returns to his home city for his father’s funeral.  This short play also stars Pete Postlethwaite and Hilary Sesta. It was recorded on location in Bearwood and in studio at Pebble Mill. BBC 2, 1990. Written by Alan David Price, dir Diana Patrick, prod Phillippa Giles & Vicky Licorish.

‘Fellow Traveller’ is the only TV film made at BBC Pebble Mill.  Set in the McCarthy era it tells the story of a black listed U.S. writer forced to work in Britain.  It stars Ron Silver and Imogen Stubbs.  BBC 2, 1991. Written by Michael Eaton, dir Philip Saville, prod Michael Wearing.

‘Joe the Chainsmith’ (BBC 1958) was documentary pioneer Philip Donnellan’s first film for television. It is a portrait of Cradley Heath in Staffordshire – then known for the traditional craft of chain-making – and one of the pillars of that community and that craft, Joe Mallen (1890-1975). Directed, Produced & Written by Philip Donnellan.

An Insight into the ‘Making of Joe the Chainsmith’ (2006) is a short film which looks at the making of Philip Donnellan’s classic social document of Black Country life, including interviews with the last remaining participants in the original film. Directed and produced by Harry Bloomer and Warren MacCabe-Smith for 7 Inch Cinema’s Landmarks project.

“A Story of Cradley Heath” (2010) is a documentary by Warren MacCabe-Smith and Harry Bloomer, which captures a town in transition, with new shops and access roads replacing old landmarks. Nonetheless the vitality and community spirit of Cradley Heath lives on, as testified by the lively interviews featured within the film. Directed and Produced by Warren MacCabe-Smith and Harry Bloomer (Cradley Heath Film).

“Made in Birmingham (2010): Reggae, Punk and Bhangra” musicians from the city of Birmingham discuss their distinctive musical styles and reflect on how music has played its own role in fostering a new sense of collective identity in the city. (Directed by Deb Ashton)

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