Friday, February 26, 2010

1. Swansea - A Love Story

A harrowing documentary about life and love (of sorts) on the bleak streets of the South Wales city.

Swansea Love Story is no Romeo & Juliet story transferred from the streets of Verona to those of South Wales, no matter what the name might suggest. Instead, filmmaking duo Andy Capper and Leo Leigh provide us with a staggering documentary that attempts to get under the skin of a small selection of the many drug addicts living in the city.

The Love Story of the title relates most obviously to Cornelius and Amy, a homeless, alcoholic, heroin addict couple at the heart of the film. When Amy remarks early on to her loved one that “we’ve had some hard times, haven’t we?”, she does so in a way that neatly summarises the hopeless destitution these people face. Her life story is one of numerous hardships that could be described in much stronger, harsher terms than ’some hard times,’ but that’s all they are to Amy.

The Love Story extends further, though. The devotion the subjects of the film have for their drugs of choice is, in most cases, unbreakable. They are in fact no longer drugs of choice but of necessity. Equally, the Love Story speaks of Swansea itself; a city no longer riding high on the waves of industrialisation, as the elder statesmen of the mines and working mens clubs talk us through the highs and lows of their beloved hometown.

As raw and unflinching as the film is, it is this pervading sense of affection that moves the film out of the realms of relentless bleakness. To sustain such a mood for the duration would turn the work into an unwatchable parable, but low crew numbers and uncomplicated vérité camerawork allow the humanity of the addicts to shine through. The subjects of the film are not characterised solely by their addictions: they are as fallible as any human beings, and they deserve our attention as such.

Whether it be the strange painting of a wizard hanging in the Special Brew can-filled front room of Cornelius’s sister, the deep and passionate love for Swansea City F.C that hopeful-reformer Dennis sings about in his blood-splattered new flat, or the incongruous box of Sugar Puffs that sits on the shelf behind ‘The Famous Clint,’ it is these tiny details that colour their world in and show us that, despite what statistics or tabloid coverage might sometimes tell us, these people should not be demonised.

The beauty of Leigh and Capper’s film lies in it’s simplicity, making it clear that to cast these people aside would be pure folly. Swansea Love Story is socially-aware filmmaking of a very high standard which deserves an audience not only because of its sensitive portrayal of a topic so often reduced to newspaper bylines, but because of the undeniable quality of craft and compassion shown by these relatively unknown filmmakers.

Watch all 6 episode of the documentary HERE

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