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From the Sea to the Land Beyond is a film about the British coast made from 100 years of our film heritage stored in the British Film Institute collection, edited by Penny Woolcock with a soundtrack by British Sea Power.
Set in the near future. Pharoah Mann, a right wing politician is elected into power. He clears the streets of all people that are considered a blight on society, such as petty criminals, alcoholics, tramps, drug addicts, asylum seekers and refugees and puts them all into a ghetto where unless they have a work permit they cannot leave. When Moses the son of Pharoah finds he is not actually the privileged son of a politician but the son of a refugee who was put into the ghetto 20 years previously, he begins a war with his father in order to free the people of the ghetto. Written by
Interesting in the creative process, poor in the actual product and delivery thereof
Twenty years ago Pharaoh Mann came to power in Margate on a wave of anti-immigrant feeling. His wife stands by him but disagrees with him politically. Her heart shows through by taking in an immigrant's baby that had been abandoned calling him Moses. Now two decades later Margate has become own-ruled and has been divided into two parts. One part is where the "normal" people living but the former attraction area of dreamland has been turned into a camp for criminals, immigrants, the homeless, the unemployed, the disabled and so on. Moses is now a man, with liberal views and a flirty way with his maid who is allowed out of Dreamland to work. When she is fired, he goes after her but a fatal scuffle with security sees Moses hiding in the camp and discovering his background and destiny.
Back in 2006 I saw a documentary on Gormley's waste man sculpture that was made for this film to use. In that documentary I still remember the rather pretentious air around those involved with it, even if the documentary did well to balance it with people confused and bemused by it all. It was to be just over a year before I saw the main feature on channel 4. Unfortunately the force of creative presence that I sensed in Woolcock in that documentary is the thing that drives the film. As a result Exodus is all too arty and creative and it undermines what I was looking for the film to do, which was be topical, impacting and insightful.
It is not like the topics are not there (immigration, racism, terrorism all the "isms" in fact) but they just aren't as well delivered as I would have wanted. Maybe it is because of how similar it feels to the much better Children of Men (an impression made worse by the presence of Ashitey, who appears to be trying to corner a niche genre market) but the themes just don't grip me as they did in that film although they are similar Exodus just didn't make that many points considering what it was doing. The fault must lie with Woolcock, who cannot bring her material together into what really should have been cutting when viewed in respect to modern life in Britain today. As it is she seems to have made making the film the way she did her focus rather than thinking about the end product. The focus on process is commendable but unsuccessful. OK, so well done trying something different, using local people, bringing in art installations as part of the film and attempting to base your story on the bible but making it modern however it doesn't work. The Waste Man doesn't really fit and seems unnecessary and for the sake of having art in there; the locals stand out a mile with "am-dram" delivery and so on.
The cast are not all this way though. Percival is solid while Hill at least adds value thanks to the way he hams it up like it is his last act on earth. Ashitey is the only one that convinces in her fiery performance and more could have been made of her confrontation of Moses' terrorist acts. Below them things aren't great although this was the risk of the creative process.
Overall then this is a flawed film that disappoints in the delivery as much as it attracts attention in the process. Credit to Woolcock for the way she has made this film and what she has tried to do but it all counts for naught in a script that fails to do anything of real significance with the many themes in rams into its biblical retelling. I wanted to like it but I'm afraid my advice would be to leave this and watch Children of Men because it is worth more of your time. If you have already seen it, then I would suggest leaving Exodus anyway or you'll forever be comparing the two.
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