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Blight

John Smith

UK, 1996
16 minutes, Col, opt, 4:3
Original format: 16mm film
Available formats: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file
Blight

Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, using images and sounds of demolition and road building in conjunction with the spoken words of local residents. But although the film is constructed from images and sounds of real events, Blight exploits the ambiguities of its material to produce new meanings and metaphors, fictionalizing reality through framing and editing strategies. The emotive power of music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention.

“A stunning montage depicts the destruction of a London street to make way for new roads. The rhythmic, emotive soundtrack is partly musical and partly a collage of the residents’ voices. Shots and sounds echo and cross-link in the film’s 14 minutes to reinvent a radical documentary tradition.” A.L. Rees A History of Experimental Film and Video, 1999, British Film Institute.

“In the first few minutes of his film Blight, derelict houses appear to be dismembering themselves. Bricks rattle, mortar falls, and wooden beams are dislodged, seemingly by poltergeist activity (a feeling reinforced by a poster for the film The Exorcist, on a bedroom wall that has become newly exposed to daylight). The claw of a bulldozer is filmed, ominously caressing a chimney stack it is about to tear down. But the shot stops short, and the inevitable destruction happens in our heads, not on the screen. The restraint of John’s editing beautifully undercuts the emotive quality of the music (composed by his collaborator Jocelyn Pook), and the music in turn replaces the drama that hits the cutting room floor.” Cornelia Parker ‘John Smith’s Body’ in John Smith – Film and Video Works 1972-2002.

Awards: ‘Prix Regional’, ‘Youth Film Prize’ 43rd Oberhausen International Short Film Festival 1997, ‘Golden Dove’ for best short documentary from 40th Leipzig International Documentary Festival 1997, ‘Best European Short Film’ 42nd Cork Film Festival 1997, ‘Gold Plaque’ for Best Short Experimental Film. 33rd Chicago International Film Festival 1997, ‘Film Jackdaw’ for best experimental film – 16th Uppsala Short Film festival 1997, ‘Special Critics Award’ Film+Arc. Graz 1997. ‘Hamburg Short Film Prize’ for Best Film. Hamburg Short Film Festival 1998.