Directed by Emma Holbrook & Susannah Mo
Review by Amaliah S. Marmon-Halm
As we continue to live in an age of austerity, where elements vital to our society's wellbeing and sanity are being cut or reduced, it's not uncommon to find opinions and films like this one by Emma Holbrook and Susannah Mo trying to highlight the true cost of these cuts. They began to discuss the prospect of producing a short project with the aim to explore the knock on effects resulting from the loss of artistic infrastructure, especially in the more regional parts of the country, specifically the South West.
Like many other parts of the United Kingdom, this region has experienced a great loss of venues and establishments that were originally in place to support a vast range of projects, groups and individuals in both professional and non - professional capacities. This documentary wants to explore some of the issues now facing the regional arts communities, especially within the South West.
Holbrook and Mo use the closure of The Brewhouse art centre and the affect it had on the community of Taunton. The establishing shot is a beautiful one of the idyllic Somerset countryside, that almost suddenly transitions into images of protests, theatre and centre closures. This quick change more or less set the tone for the rest of the documentary.
It was interesting that many people might not realise how many establishments have had to close outside their own neighbourhoods, and this film sets about trying to correct that. Through the use of interviews, footage of performances and protests and info-graphs, the beginning sets out to be a very informative and potentially important piece about the issue of austerity on the arts.
Holbrook narrates how the closure of theatres, commercial art establishments and educational spaces are all interlinked and set off a sort of looped domino effect. However interesting the topic may be, especially to those of us in the creative field, it is really hard to build that necessary emotional connection to this documentary, as Holbrook's narration is so monotonous at times it hurts (a point she acknowledges herself at the end of the film). It's not until the documentary starts to come to a close, does the feeling start to return but unfortunately, it's not soon enough for the audience.
The dreariness continues with the interviewees in the film. From amateurs to industry professionals, for a set of people who are meant to be conveying their passion for the arts and their dismay at the closures, most of them seem apathetic and bored by the entire situation. All these elements bring the atmosphere to a level of a somewhat tedious educational Personal Service Announcement video.
There truly were elements of this documentary that made you want to sit up and pay attention to what is going on in our communities. It is unfortunate that the monotonous narration takes a great deal away from the atmosphere and ends up disconnecting the viewer. This results in something that needs extra attention and doesn't make for relatively easy viewing.