Laura Fairrie (U.K., World Showcase)
Saturday, April 30, 9:30 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland St)
Monday, May 2, 4:30 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
The first five minutes of The Battle for Barking has everything a documentary filmmaker could dream of—specifically, a politician crying, swearing and being publicly called a racist. In short: raw, spontaneous drama. Opening at such a high-octane pace, one’s inclined to wonder: Can they keep this up? Luckily director Laura Fairrie’s filmmaking, and her subject matter, only become increasingly engaging.
Set in the riding of Barking, Fairrie’s crew follows two MP candidates in the run up to the 2010 elections: the Labour Party incumbent, Margaret Hodge and Nick Griffin, of the far right British National Party. If you are feeling saturated with politics as our own election approaches and inclined to give this a pass, that would be a mistake. The BNP is an equally fascinating and terrifying manifestation of British politics, campaigning on a platform of expelling immigrants, racism, and what is tantamount to “white is right.” Fairrie immerses the camera into both campaigns and also the neighbourhood, capturing moments that are both amusing and shocking.
The film clearly sides with Hodge (though a lingering shot on her Jimmy Choo shoe that slips off at a construction site highlights the class difference between the politician and the disadvantaged riding she represents), and develops into an interesting character study that goes beyond politics. Still, a larger contextualization of the failings of the Labour party under Tony Blair would have better explained the swell of support for the BNP. Further, the narrative is so emotionally charged the occasionally heavy-handed score feels melodramatic at moments. But overall The Battle for Barking eloquently captures a unique moment in British politics with journalistic integrity and engaging filmmaking.