At a recent pre-Cannes film social, Roobla bumped into director Martin Denham and producer Karine Alexander, who took a few minutes to speak to us about their new short film. Dear Mr. Cameron is a ten minute film about the London riots, which took place in August 2011. It was inspired by a friend’s poem, which was directed at the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately Martin was losing his voice on the evening we spoke, so Karine stepped up to explain the ideas and motivations behind the film. She told us that Dear Mr. Cameron is an attempt at analysing how the government, the economy and national institutions combined to breed a society in which riots of this sort could take place. Essentially, the film represents the poem that inspired it on-screen in a dynamic and visual way, as actors intone verses from it (a far cry from someone simply reading out the poem). ‘The poem is the film,’ Karine told us, ‘but presented to be engaging visually.’
Dear Mr. Cameron takes a theatrical approach to film, and was shot on a very low budget. The film-makers advertised on the internet for actors who wanted to get involved and received hundreds of replies, but soon realised this was because people were under the impression they were planning to actually recreate the riots. In the end, seventeen actors were cast, some aged as young as twelve, others in their fifties, with a wide range of races and backgrounds represented.
As the basis for the film is people letting the Prime Minister know their opinions on the riots, all of the characters were allowed to choose a verse from the poem that most appealed to them, meaning that basically they were allowed to choose their own lines. Karine told us that some actors did drop out of the film because they thought that being involved in such a political project might affect their later careers, but for the most part it seems that people were excited at the chance to be involved in a serious social commentary. As Karine said, Dear Mr. Cameron is a film with a powerful, topical and relatable message – and what is happening in the country at large affects us all personally.
Having never tried their hand at a non-fiction film before, Martin and Karine are very happy with their efforts. They plan to try to get Dear Mr. Cameron screened in community centres and schools to spread the message of the film; they also plan to invite David Cameron to the official premiere, which will be taking place in August 2012 to coincide with the anniversary of the riots.
For Karine and Martin, a crucial aspect of the film is that it is a viewpoint, or mixture of viewpoints, on-screen. Karine told us that the film is both objective and subjective and that how the film is interpreted by the viewer is just as important as how it is presented on-screen. It seems certain that everyone who was witness to or affected by the riots will be intrigued to take a look at this engaging short film for themselves.
The Pre-Cannes event was organised by Paola Berta, Sheepish PR, Beverly Hills UK – Film Society & Events.
Photos by Karyn Louise, © Ruby Photography London.