East End Film Festival : Brexitannia – Review ****

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When Britain voted to leave the European Union last year, many were caught by surprise. The tiny majority margin – coming mostly from rural areas and Northern England – made a Prime Minister resign, put the pound into a dive and is still causing political and social waves.

That’s where director Timothy George Kelly comes in. He travelled the UK from one side to the other, pointed the camera to all kinds of people – both Leavers, Remainers, as well as to some that weren’t able to vote – and let them speak about the reasons that made them support each side. As thin thematic lines glue the people together, there’s no external commentary, as Kelly made sure there was no such thing as truth in the first half of his documentary, dedicated to the people. The second half, dedicated to those “nasty” experts, has some possible explanations, and yet, even those are shy of taking sides.

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Shot in black and white and 4:3, Brexitannia is a delicate object, with careful framing, beautiful sound design, and a powerful message. You will hear all kinds of opinions – yes, including the racist ones. Things that are awful by liberal, 21st century standards, are coming out of the mouth of normal, even fragile people. From the diversity of answers, a pattern arises – the desire to tell the Government to f*ck off, wanting to go back to a (White and) Proud Britain, blaming the lack of jobs on immigrants who are, at the same time, living off benefits with houses paid by the State. Some opinions are not as shocking as coming from the people they do – the daughter of Ghana immigrants that says her parents think people coming into the UK have it too easy, the young UKIP supporter who claims not being influenced by the media – unlike her contemporaries – and the affable pub bloke who thinks all the refugees are ISIS soldiers because, “where are the women and children”?

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And, on the other side, mostly young people or History lovers arguing that national identity is a tricky business, and there’s no such thing as job and house stealing migrants, and the experts, explaining how Brexit is actually a reaction against neoliberalism, how the British media – owned mostly by one individual who does not want to lose his influence on national affairs – manipulated people to think the EU – and its inhabitants – is the responsible for their unemployment and hard times, and how the water bottles we buy and the refugee camps at our borders are intimately related.

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Provocative, extremely political without cheap morals or even conclusions, Brexitannia must be watched by everyone that wants to understand the UK’s present political and social situation, and even the world’s.

Brexitannia will play at the East End Film Festival on 23rd June 2017. For more information and tickets, please check http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/programme-archive/brexitannia/

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.