My thoughts on….The Pursuit of Happiness (DVD, 2008, 90mins, Amber film company)

More4, Northern Film and Media, Northern Rock Foundation.

This documentary style film produced by (and in memory of) Murray Martin, a key figure of founder of Amber Films. The barebones of the films shows Murray’s relationship with the Coulson’s family – a horsey traveller family in North East England.

In short this film is a consideration and reflection of a simple life, one which integrates family, friendship and work on a community level.  The film has a distinct feel which lies somewhere between documentary, observation, narrative and family video footage – which has been experimented with in previous Amber films such as Seacoal (1985) and Shooting Magpies (2005).  It depicts the life and relationships of a traveller’ family, their relationship with land, horses, the countryside and most of all with each other.

What makes this film unique is that the director Murray died during the making of this film, and after his death it became apparent that this film wasn’t just about the Coulson’s family, it was in fact about Murray own ‘pursuit of happiness’ and close relationship with the Coulson’s family, his desire to live a simple life – a life which needs little money, little possessions and has community / sense of belonging at the heart of it. A life which perhaps reflected on Murray’s community orientated working class childhood, which you get the feeling had been lost to the post-modern work ethics, or lost during his university education.

This film is thought provoking, eye opening and full of passion, a passion (Murray) which very often stood behind or next to the camera lens. Many commentators will locate the content of this film into the left (politically), or into a world of old fashioned nostalgia, and perhaps it is to an extent. However, beyond this there are fundamental messages about life, ways of life and people’s desire to be happy in their surrounds, regardless of where they have come from or where they may be travelling to.

CreativeGavin 2012

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