Tate Britain Film

Art Now Lightbox: Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell Detail from Bernadette 2008

Duncan Campbell Detail from Bernadette 2008

Tate © Duncan Campbell, courtesy HOTEL, London

Bernadette 2008

This film portrays the life of Bernadette Devlin, an Irish Socialist and Republican, political activist and the youngest female British Member of Parliament, appointed at the age of 21 in 1969 and serving until 1974. Vintage 16mm films and stills from Belfast City Archives are collaged together to construct a narrative of Devlin’s political life, which in turn offers an insight into the ‘Troubles’ in the north of Ireland. The film introduces personal, sometimes intimate, footage of Devlin, alongside scenes of the young activist engaged in public protests, speeches and interviews.

Declaring that she had been elected by the ‘oppressed people of Ulster’, Devlin campaigned for social equality, promoting a non-sectarian and non-violent approach in contrast to the volatile political situation unfolding around her in the late 1960s. Campbell celebrates both Devlin’s political spirit and her more poetic, human side, to create a rounded portrait of a committed individual. He interweaves existing footage with sound and animation, fusing reality with fiction. In so doing he reassesses material provided by the media and investigates how history is recorded, as well as challenging our understanding of documentary film making and its relationship to the truth.

Tate Britain

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4 July – 30 August 2009