Reconstructing History: films

Patrick Keiller London 1994

Patrick Keiller
London 1994

© British Film Institute

Mike Figgis

The Battle of Orgreave 2001
Courtesy of the artist, Artangel

This documentary film by Mike Figgis records Jeremy Deller’s work The Battle of Orgreave 2001, in which Deller restaged a violent clash between police and striking miners at Orgreave coking plant, South Yorkshire, that occurred during the 1984-5 miners strike.

The re-enactment involved many of those originally involved in the ‘battle’ alongside members of re-enactment societies; in an extra twist, some of the police are played by former miners, and vice versa. Testimonies, reminiscences and interviews reveal the conflict’s continuing effect on family life. By drawing out individual and collective memories, some of which contradict each other, the film works against providing a complete and definitive document. As such the film resonates on many levels. It demonstrates the media’s power in reporting (or misreporting) such incidents and how the ‘reality’ of news is framed within establishment ideology.

Patrick Keiller

London 1994
84 min
Collection: BFI National Film and Television Archive

Keiller’s London 1994 tests the boundaries of art and documentary, while also questioning ideas of Britain and Britishness. It chronicles a fictitious journey through England’s capital through the eyes of Robinson, Keiller’s imaginary protagonist, whose insights are voiced deadpan by actor Paul Scofield. Robinson’s philosophical exploration attempts to unearth the reasons for London’s cultural and social decline under Thatcherism. London is presented as a series of monuments to the adventures and wanderings of 18th- and 19th-century poets. These monuments enable us to re-imagine the cultural and social values that for Robinson (and Keiller) are missing.

William Raban

Island Race 1996
28 min
Collection: BFI National Film and Television Archive

Island Race 1996 was filmed between 1994 and 1995 in the East End of London. Raban described it as ‘rediscovering’ a part of London he had lived in for 20 years. The film depended on constant observation and the gathering of information about events and celebrations taking place on the street: the funeral of Ronnie Kray, VE day celebrations and street parties, a political campaign by a British National Party candidate, and anti-racist demonstrations. Raban intended the film to question if this view of a small part of London ‘would offer up any clues as to the general condition of the country at large.’

See also

Tate Britain Exhibition

Patrick Keiller The Robinson Institute: Tate Britain Commission 2012

27 Mar – 14 Oct 2012
Patrick Keiller creates an ambitious new project in the Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain from March 2012

TateShots: Patrick Keiller

Patrick Keiller is best known for his series of film essays in which a fictional, unseen scholar Robinson undertakes exploratory ...