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  Filmmaker's House, The Keep the cameras rolling
Year: 2020
Director: Mark Isaacs
Stars: Various
Genre: Drama, DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Mark Isaacs is a British documentarian keen to capture life as it is lived in his homeland and has devoted most of his career to precisely that. But this may be easier said than done, for he has been contacted by his associate with the news that any financial backers are only really interested in serial killers these days, so does he have anything sordid that could fit that bill? He replies that personally, he is more interested in ordinary folks, and has in mind a project that he can shoot quickly and cheaply at his home...

Which is what he appears to have done, but the premise that this was an authentic slice of life was bizarrely self-sabotaged when he decided to go meta with his concepts, bringing into question everything we had seen by the end. You could watch this unaware of the conceit, but there were clues littered throughout the running time that would indicate this was farfetched and manufactured, starting with the visit in hospital with one of Isaacs' invented "stars", a shaggy, Slovakian homeless man.

He seems to have something genuinely physically wrong with him - he claims sepsis - but mentions this is something real for the film, prompting you to wonder, well, as opposed to what? It then proceeds with Isaacs bumbling around his London home, idly filming his cleaning lady, a Colombian immigrant, and the two (white, English) builders replacing his large fence with a smaller one that looks a little inadequate, especially as another of the "characters" is a sinister cat, pet animal of the director, that at one point brings into the living room a wild pigeon to kill and play with its corpse.

Then there's the Muslim woman, complete with burqa, who lives next door with her unseen and infirm husband and small son and is bringing food around for Ramadan - Isaacs is Jewish but makes a point of getting along with her as an example of the multicultural society operating smoothly, no matter that one of the builders, an Arsenal-loving football fan, seems to bristle at the thought of so much as sniffing a curry. But they all are tolerant in one another's company, and it's all getting sentimental as conversation turns to the Slovakian contacting his dear, grey-haired old mother and the cleaning lady swithering over whether she should attend her late mother's funeral.

You could just about accept this even as you suspected its artifice, but the director was keen to break down the fourth wall and let light in on magic, earning one major query: if he was so engaged with multiculturalism, should he not have filmed actual lives rather than inventing a bunch for amateurs to act out? It went against the supposed optimism of his point of view that we could all live in harmony if a documentary promoting that revealed itself to be all made up. Not all of it was fake, as far as you could discern - the homeless guy really did appear ill in hospital - but he was used for self-deprecation, irony and clever-clever statements about the light hypocrisy and lip service paid to helping those less fortunate. It was a confounding piece, difficult to know how to react to it, and not necessarily in the best way, either; if you liked a spot of games playing, however, it might appeal, though mainly in the manner of one of those scripted reality TV shows. Music by Richard Norris and Matthew Shaw.

[THE FILMMAKER'S HOUSE is released in Cinemas, Virtual Cinemas and Premium VOD 25th June 2021 Click here to watch.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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