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DVD Review

DVD cover

The Happy Lands


Starring: Kevin Clarke, Jokie Wallace, Aaron Jones and Kevin Adair
Distributor: Soda Pictures and Theatre Workshop Scotland
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 28 October 2013

It’s the General Strike 1926 - Only seven years after the slaughter of the trenches, millions of workers across the country down tools and take part in the biggest walk out in British history, taking a stand against savage austerity cuts imposed by a Liberal – Conservative Government. Director Robert Rae’s epic, sweeping portrait of a definitive moment in history of social justice charts the lives of three Scottish families as they deal with questions of loyalty, honour, love and trust in the midst of the Strike. Created with over 1000 members of the Fife community, this moving story of the hardship faced by the miners is ultimately a celebration of the indomitable human spirit, which they have described as “the time of their lives”. A game changing work that casts the people of Fife Coalfield Communities at the heart of their own story and told in their own voice and permanently imprinted on film. Theatre Workshop Scotland created an enduring social and artistic legacy that gave many participants what they have described as “the time of their lives”...

When I started watching this docudrama I didn't know what to make of it. The acting ranged from average to poor and the narrative seemed to be all over the place. Was it a documentary? A drama? A political message for the masses? In truth it is all these and much more.

It was only after watching the featurettes that it became obvious that this was more a labour of love than a serious attempted to make a film with a message. The production was filmed in Fife, Scotland and as such used locals in almost every aspect of the filmmaking - from the catering to the set building and actors (which goes some way to explaining why some of them are a bit wooden). While it's obviously a low budget production, the cinematographer, costume department, set designers and props people have done an amazing job of making this feel like an expensive production.

The film doesn't, surprisingly, take a stance either way. You'd think that the message they'd impart would be that we should stand up for our rights lest we become slaves to capitalism. You can read it like that, or you could read it that there's no point in fighting for something when you'll end up bending in the end and a lot of people will get hurt in the process. Whatever message you want to take away from this will probably depend on your political leanings.

With one of the central messages being about how the government step on the little man, I couldn't help but smile at the irony of ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown's speech before the gala screening.

Extras include Behind the Scenes (13 min, 27 sec); and Gala Screening June 8, 2012 (12 min, 13 sec look the speeches given before and after the gala screening as well as vox pops with those that attended).

It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives a voice to a long forgotten struggle, where the working man stood up and said: "Enough". Something I doubt will happen again any time soon.


Darren Rea

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