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John Smith

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

Blight was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people. Taking these actualities as its starting point, Blight exploits the ambiguities of its material to create its own metaphorical fictions. The emotive power of Jocelyn Pook’s music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention, investing mundane images with dramatic significance.

“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

“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.”   Cornelia Parker, John Smith: Film and Video Works, Picture This / Watershed, 2002

14th Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Germany, 1998
Best International Short Film

42nd Cork International Film Festival, Ireland, 1997
Best European Short Film

40th Leipzig International Documentary and Animation Festival, Germany. 1997
Golden Dove (best short documentary)

33rd Chicago International Film Festival, USA, 1997
Gold Plaque (best experimental film)

16th Uppsala International Short Film Festival, Sweden.
Film Jackdaw (best experimental film)

43rd Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Germany, 1997
Prix Regional and Youth Film Prize

3rd International Biennale of Film and Architecture, Graz, Austria, 1997
Special Critics Award

2nd Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Thailand, 1999
Audience Prize