As a born Londoner and film buff, the Smoke Screen makes it a priority to catch the short programmes produced by 1000 Londoners: a project produced by Chocolate Films and directors Rachael Wang and Mark Currie, which aims to create a collage portrait of the city via 1000 short films with each one following a different Londoner. 1000 different points of view, from all over the city and from various times of the year. It is an ambitious target to be sure, with the project still not complete yet.
Each week a new Londoner’s story is broadcast on http://www.1000londoners.com , but 1000 Londoners also run movie nights around the capital, collecting together several shorts under one overall theme and often intercutting them with quirky archive footage gleaned from the London Screen Archives. This month’s programme is titled (appropriately, given the dark nights are setting in) “Necropolis”, and it collects a variety of Londoner’s stories together which were all recorded on Halloween night. The programmers set themselves a challenge of spontaneity with this one, with a team of twelve filmmakers venturing out into the streets after dark to see how many stories they could gather.
The eleven films that are the result of that one night’s work feel very true to the ethos of 1000 Londoners: in that you truly feel that before you on screen is a cross-section of the melting pot of people, feelings, dreams and conflicts that modern London is made of. There are immigrants, harmless eccentrics, the devout, the elderly, and the carefree young, all rubbing shoulders. One subject – “transformational intuitive coach” Sri – is one of the those true originals you hope the 1000 Londoner’s team will dig up every time they head out; Sri being a spell caster who we see running a training session to a rapt crowd on Halloween in full zombie costume (it seems Halloween costumes and fake blood are no impediment to casting a spell). Paul, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia five times but now discovering the joys of roller skating in Halloween regalia with crowds of likeminded types, provides an inspirational tale of self-help and redemtpion. But more poignant is our introduction to Peter, an elderly Highgate resident who has lived in the area for nearly 40 years, and likes to visit the Highgate wood in his retirement, whilst wistfully recalling the days he was more active. Halloween doesn’t mean as much to Peter as it used to; he is painfully aware that more years are behind him now than ahead. In a city that seems so fast moving, with masses of people always coming and going, Peter is also a reminder to us that some Londoners like to stick to their patch. You can only imagine the changes he has seen.