A few days after the EU referendum film-maker Timothy Kelly set off for UKIP Land, Clacton-on-Sea, to interview voters. He ended up travelling the country recording the thoughts of over 200 people to create the documentary Brexitannia. Beautifully shot in wide-screen monochrome and cut-down to fifty Brits in a Leave/Remain ratio reflecting the 52 to 48% result. The country explains why it voted the way it voted.
He presented his work at Picturehouse Komedia and described how in a cynical world it’s difficult getting anyone who’ll speak to a camera. He used nine regional fixers to ease the way, avoided direct questions and let his subjects express their views. Apart from one happy Armageddon forecaster he took care not to throw anyone under the bus.
The main part of documentary is funny, relaxed and natural. The subjects chatting to the camera as if it’s what they do all day. It cuts between the regional accents and stereotype-breaking speakers to gradually build a picture. What comes out of the film is a confusion. Why did we vote Leave? Immigration was the big issue and being ruled remotely by a vague grey-suited EU. There were some telling insights but also bent cucumbers and jihadis.
The second part of the film called Experts is less balanced. Noam Chomsky and others expounding their left-wing theories. If anything it shows the distance between those who dissect politics and the voters whose actions they dissect.
In a Q&A Timothy Kelley said he would like to shoot a sequel in 20 years time so the same people could reflect on how things had gone. But as the clocks go in back 2017 his film, shot in the sunny summer days of 2016, already seems so long ago. No one talked about trade deals, Ireland or a Brexit Bill. Leave voters were optimistic of change but a over a year later nothing has changed.
Commentators have gone round in circles trying to explain the Brexit vote. Was it due to: Project Fear, a backlash against the elite, revolts in the Labour heartlands ? As leading-Leaver Michael Gove said: “We don’t need experts”. Watch Brexitannia; the reason for Brexit – you can only feel it .