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SEACOAL

UK, 1985 (MIFF 1988)

Director: Amber Films

Lying somewhere between the naturalism of Mike Leigh and the working class concerns of Ken Loach, Seacoal, a unique collaborative project, is an astonishing doco-drama that demolishes the lines between the two processes, as it tells the story of a community under threat from the mining industry.

The inspiration for Seacoal undoubtably came from the staggering visual location in which it is filmed: the industrial landscape of power station and pit framing the blackened beaches of Lynemouth on the Northumberland coast of Northern England, where for generations local people and travellers have held common rights to collect coal from the sea shore. Their traditional way of life is threatened when the right to mine the shore is sold of to local entrepreneurs.

Into this harsh way of life comes Betty and her daughter Her introduction is through Ray, an ex-seacoaler returning from a job with ICI. His offer of a caravan on a cliff-top and promises of the 'Klondyke' that awaits them at least seem preferable to the violent marriage she has left behind.

Made by Amber Films collective a film workshop based in Newcastle, Seacoal seamlessly merges professional actors with actual seacoalers in such a convincing manner that it is impossible to pick the actors from the residents The resulting authenticity suggests that the crew simply turned up and pointed the camera, but ironically it took two years living and working with the Lynemouth seacoalers before they could attain this precious state of artifice.

”As haunting visually as it is heroic politically, Seacoal celebrates more than nostalgia for a lost way of life. Despite the poverty, the weather, the uncertainty of the living, the conspiracies of the dole queue, anti-Romany racism and the fear of caravan fires and ghosts on the beach; this reconstruction of lives takes on epic proportions.” - Sean Cubitt, ‘City Limits'.

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