Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Miners' Hymns

The Miners' Hymns on Bill Morrison's website (see also beyond the jump break).
HDCam at DocPoint, Maxim 2, Helsinki, 24 Jan 2013.

Taru Kasandra: "Director Bill Morrison doesn’t need words to describe what everyday life is like in an English mining community. This mostly black-and-white film shows both social and political aspects of the mining industry using rarely seen archive footage. While the narrative is conveyed visually, the film does not remain a silent experience. A deeply powerful accompaniment has been composed by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson."

"Coloured aerial footage and moments from the labour strikes of 1984 act as a striking reminder of what our contemporary culture of consumption is built on. It is touching to witness a man at the pit head kissing his employer-issued head torch, drawing his last breath of fresh air, before he descends into the dark, cramped, dusty mine." Taru Kasandra │ translation by Jouna Keränen

Director: Bill Morrison
52 min, United Kingdom, 2011
Photography: Steve Desbrow
Editor: Bill Morrison
Sound: Jacques B. Pedersen
Production: David Metcalfe / Hypnotic Pictures, Forma

A majestic, noble, haunting requiem to the formerly magnificent English mining community in Durham County in North East England. In the framing images a helicopter flies above, and captions alert us to former sites of collieries (= coal mines): Ryhope, Silksworth, Hylton, Monkwearmouth...

They now only exist in memory. The body of the movie is a compilation of wonderful historical footage about the mining community and also about the legendary Durham Miners' Association and the Durham Miners' Gala which includes a miners' service in Durham Cathedral. This is the background to the title of Bill Morrison's film.

The historical footage ends with violent demonstrations. The policemen beat demonstrators during 1984-1985 when the British mining industry was crushed by the Thatcher administration.

There is no spoken sound in the film but a strong score by Jóhann Jóhannsson with aspects of a requiem and an emphasis on brass instruments - brass bands were an essential part of the culture in the mining communities.

While watching this movie with admiration I was not able to relate to its slightly melancholic and resigned atmosphere.

The visual format: HD, alas, but the digital transfer has been performed from excellent film elements with a good artistic sense.


Trailer: "The Miners' Hymns"
A film by Bill Morrison
Original score by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Produced by Forma

Distributed by Icarus Films
Distributed by the BFI

(2011, 52 min, HD)

A wordless documentary depicting the ill-fated mining community in North East England.

"The Miners' Hymns is quite simply one of the best and most beautiful films of the year." - Michael Glitz, Huffington Post, 10/26/12

Review: "The Miners' Hymns" at Tribeca Film Festival
by Howard Feinstein
Screen Daily, 04/22/11
"Morrison does not assemble, nor does he go directly from point A to point B. He manipulates images, enhancing mood and scoring progressive political points through his juxtapositions. The Burnsians are gifted artisans; Morrison goes further: He is an unapologetic poet, a unique talent."

Review: "The Miners' Hymns" at Film Forum
by Manohla Dargis
The New York Times, 2/7/12
"A miner himself of a type, Mr. Morrison has dug into the archives of the likes of the British Film Institute to cull primarily black-and-white images so rich, so alive with dirty faces, shadows and the occasional pit pony that they resurrect a world that for many has long been lost to history."

Performance review: "The Miners' Hymns" at Durham Cathedral
by Nick Bradshaw
Sight & Sound, 7/16/10

Dvd available
The Miners' Hymns: RRP 15.99
Morrison, Bill

This elegy, in film and music, to the coal mining history of north east England, is the product of an exceptional creative collaboration between renowned filmmaker Bill Morrison (Decasia) and acclaimed musician and composer Johann Johannson.

Collaged from archive film footage and drawing on the region's brass music culture, the Miners' Hymns celebrates the labour, endurance, vibrant community and rich culture that characterised the lives of those who worked underground.

* Concert Documentation - Excerpts (2010, 12 minutes): highlights from the live premiere performances in Durham Cathedral.
* Interview with Bill Morrison and Jhann Jhannson (2010, 8 minutes)
* Original trailer.
* Illustrated booklet with essays and notes.
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround option (448 kbps)

Certificate U
Runtime: 50 mins
Colour / B&W
Language(s): Silent with music
Published/distributed by BFI
ISBN/EAN: 5035673009239
Ratio 1.33:1

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