Tumbleweed blows on the Irish border and the grim reaper is out of work in these small-scale studies of the state of the UK
The Uncertain Kingdom is a short film collection commissioned in 2019 by producers John Jencks, Georgia Goggin and Isabel Freer as a satirical counterattack to the government’s bizarrely complacent “festival of Brexit” that is still theoretically scheduled to take place in 2022. This is a state-of-the-nation anthology: variously angry, comic and surreal – but weirdly not topical or contemporary in the way it was intended to be, as Covid-19 has now hijacked our every waking thought. (For example, it’s notable that there isn’t a single film here about the NHS.)
Some of the films feel redundant or over-literal but the tone of the collection is set by its more successful pieces. The most purely cinematic and ambitious film for me is Antonia Campbell-Hughes’s Acre Fall Between, a disquietingly hallucinatory, dreamlike event taking place on the deserted Irish border. Lanre Malaolu’s The Conversation is challenging and envelope-pushing, a dance piece investigating the feelings of people of colour about dating white people. Among the documentaries, Ellen Evans’s Motherland is a powerful study of the Windrush scandal and the people deported to Jamaica. Carol Salter’s Left Coast is a shrewdly observed and compassionate study of a Blackpool food bank.