When I was carrying out research for my film BLACK STRANGERS, I watched a short from 1951 called WEST OF ENGLAND which was also filmed around Gloucestershire. It was commissioned by the UK’s Board of Trade to promote the area’s clothmaking industry to overseas manufacturers and brings together a voiceover written by local author Laurie Lee, Technicolour footage of rural life and a string-led orchestral soundtrack to sell a romanticised vision of the English countryside.
About a minute into the film, the narrator, voiced by the privately educated Stephen Murray, describes Gloucestershire as being ‘my home’ in a tone of voice that’s loaded with the confidence that this statement wouldn’t ever be contested. In response to this, I co-opted this style of voiceover in my work to respond to the ‘postcard perfect’ narrative, incorporating what I’ve experienced as a Black person growing up and living in a rural area in an attempt to dismantle the idea that the countryside only belongs to a certain demographic. Instead of crafting a sales pitch for the audience, I disregard them and embrace the ambiguities that come with trying to commune with an eighteenth century namesake of mine.
Dan Guthrie is an artist-filmmaker, film programmer and writer. His short film BLACK STRANGERS is showing at the 2023 Berlinale Forum Expanded programme.