15th October 2015 8.45pm at BFI Southbank
While investigating her late parents’ involvement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as BP), artist and filmmaker Miranda Pennell uncovers a series of letters and photographs. These lead her to delve deep into the BP archives and discover the personal and collective legacies of colonialism which still exist today. In this experimental visual essay she presents her findings in a simple voiceover, accompanied by a black-and-white slideshow of images: some related to her story, some curiously abstract.
Some experimental films have the ability to reveal truth and beauty, although unconventional in form or narrative. Despite displaying both of these, the film remains a rambling recollection of a long-gone past, with a disruptive sound design and plodding exposition. It was undoubtedly an interesting personal journey for Pennell but, unless one has any personal connections to the BP company, any onlooker will find little resonance. It remains an obscure work, lacking in pace and impact.
Pennell’s voiceover commentary is deadpan and monotonous, lending a certain absurdity to moments which should have an emotional impact. The intermittent sound effects (such as clattering china for a dinner party) bring to mind only the clumsy construction of a children’s audiobook. Pennell frequently digresses from the subject with odd details and unrelated anecdotes, distracting from the central story and bulking the plot. Even at only 60 minutes the film drags, and the abrupt ending brings only relief.
Pennell has gained some recognition in the past for her films which look at art through the lens of collective performance, and The Host will have its debut screening at the BFI’s London Film Festival as part of the Experimenta showcase, which exhibits experimental films and videos by artists.
The Host does not have a UK release date yet.