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Passionate and impassive, if unbalanced, front line account of a time and place
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
A short film from Ken Loach, showing mining communities in Durham, North Yorkshire and Wales banding together in the midst of pit closures, lay offs and redundancies during the early 1980s, regaling each other with songs, poems and stories of their experiences during what were tough and testing times. Loach used excerpts from this in his 2013 documentary The Spirit of '45, and it was included as an extra in the DVD release of that film.
As the 80s loomed, and the wave of globalisation consumed the world, certain casualties were claimed along the way, and it's hard to think of any more documented than the once thriving towns and communities in places like the North East of England, where trade coming in and out pretty much revolved around the pits. The eerie, agoraphobic photography of these areas at the beginning is perfectly captured by Loach, and shines a light on a forgotten little corner of the earth as everyone else started living big. But what is most perfectly captured is the sense of a community united together, who understand each other probably better than they'd understand anybody in the outside world.
This probably benefits more than anything from being right in the cut and thrust of the events as they were happening thirty years ago, where the urgency and relevance was at its peak and the expressions on everyone's faces was very much real. It was highlighting a very real plight, but as a result it's also very much one sided. It was, in fact, rejected by The South Bank Show for being 'politically impartial', which says a lot. In the space of less than an hour, it presents Thatcher, the police and the 'scabs' as the demons of the Earth, while the striking miners and their families are nothing but sweetness and light, singing their songs, making you wonder why they didn't all get other careers as singer-songwriters since they're so good at it?
That said, they provide the film with some of its most effective touches, most notably the haunting 'The Dead, That's the Price of Coal', which illuminates not just the then present struggle, but the history of miners, their lacklustre safety conditions and the public's unfair expectations of them. Despite it's obvious political leanings, it's still an impassioned and convictive piece of film making that captures the mood and desperation of the time. ***
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