In Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Adrian Jackson’s freewheeling kaleidoscopic film Here for Life, place is again of paramount importance. We’re in Hackney in rapidly gentrifying east London, full of fenced-off, securitised spaces where the large cast of marginalised real-life characters the directors have assembled must endure the pain of displacement together with other day-to-day difficulties – recovery from addiction, domestic violence, isolation, terrible life losses.
But situated in the heart of these neoliberal shifting sands is a ramshackle utopian oasis, a garden with a few huts, where gradually, as the characters open up to each other and the camera and relate their often painful stories, we witness a joyful community forming right before our eyes. It’s a film of great compassion and political and aesthetic ambition, in which the idea of a collective is prioritised for a change, but without sacrificing or downplaying the individual voices and idiosyncracies that it comprises. For the most part, our protagonists are simply themselves, but there are more obviously rehearsed moments that take us deeper: quieter, stylised and reflective passages where the characters seem to look inwards, face a reckoning or perform some version of themselves.
In fact, ideas around performance and identity are key thematic threads throughout the film, which find their fullest expression in a beautifully exuberant and optimistic ending where the protagonists put on a play for an invited audience on an outdoor stage they’ve constructed in the oasis. It’s an Artangel project (which will be released by Modern Films soon) and completely sui generis, a film that genuinely seems to get under London’s skin and nail a particular moment.
Andrea is an artist, filmmaker and cultural activist. Andrea’s work is concerned with marginalisation, social justice and structural violence and has been nominated for The Grierson Award and The Film London Jarman Award. Her films include Erase and Forget (2017), which had its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for the The Glashütte Original – Documentary Award and Estate, a Reverie (2015) which documents the last days of Hackney’s Haggerston Estate before its demolition, the artist’s home for 17 years. Selected exhibitions include Civil Rites, The London Open at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2018) and solo show ‘Common Ground’ at Spike Island, Bristol (2017). Andrea is the co-founder of the cultural collectives Fugitive Images and Vision Machine (collaborators on Academy Award® nominated feature documentary The Look of Silence). Andrea is a Reader at Central St Martins, University of the Arts London.
Adrian is a theatre maker, playwright, teacher, translator and one of the world’s leading experts on the Theatre of the Oppressed. In 1991, he founded Cardboard Citizens, a theatre project that aims to change the lives of homeless people through the performing arts. He has directed over 50 plays with Cardboard Citizens, including Pericles (2003) and Timon (2006) with the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Beggar’s Opera (1999) with the English National Opera, Mincemeat (2009), winner of an Evening Standard Theatre Award and A Few Man Fridays (2012). Jackson had a long association with Augusto Boal – the Brazilian theatre maker, theorist and founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed – and has translated a number of Boal’s books into English. More recently, he directed Cathy, by Ali Taylor (2016/17), and, with Caitlin Mcleod, Home Truths, an Incomplete History of Housing Told in Nine Plays (2017).
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