Under the Cranes takes us on an odyssey through the London Borough of Hackney by foot, number 38 bus and train – from the ancient marshlands to the slums, from the theatres and market places to the private villas and squares of modern times. It urges us to consider that lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration.
This beautifully constructed film invites us to engage with the fragmentary and multi-layered narrative of Hackney, using a montage of location shots, long buried archive footage, still images and moving paintings, combined with a soundscape of field recordings, poetry, music, song and personal testimony.
Here the intrigues of Shakespearian Shoreditch are juxtaposed with the brutality of fascism in post-war Dalston, the brave deeds of the Jewish 43 Group, a history of social housing, the plight of a Bangladeshi restaurant owner or a Jamaican builder, the courageous resolve of waves of immigrants, local enterprise and industry and the spectre of Olympic developers.
Despite its wonderful evocation of Hackney’s past, Under the Cranes is no nostalgic trip down memory lane. Nor is it a rallying call against development. It simply allows us to draw our own conclusions about the fate of our inner cities.
In the end, the film urges us to recognise what is already there, at the heart of a diverse and thriving community, while raising the question that perhaps we are all living in the shadow of the cranes.
“If you let it, a street will grow.”
Under the Cranes is out now. It will be shown at Marxism 2011
A pick of the highlights
Addressing the silence over history of medical racism
Another great Thor adventure from Marvel