Review: Bloodyminded @ HOME, Manchester

Bloodyminded promised to be the UK’s first single shot live broadcast interactive feature film. If you think this sounds ambitious, you would be correct.

Due to begin at 16:20 on October 14, the audience at HOME cinema waited for the live stream to begin. After 19 slow minutes, the projectionist emerged to say that the production company were having issues with their satellite connection.

Unfortunately for Blast Theory and the many other bodies that collaborated on this project, the technology did not deliver. For the audience however, the problems with the sound, picture and timing that punctuated the film were frustrating but forgivable.

Bloodyminded did not follow through on all its promises but Blast Theory still succeeded in pushing cinema to its limit. It challenged both the technical abilities of its production and the patience of its audience.

The film was shot from an army base somewhere in the UK. It told the story of a young woman on a mission to bury the ashes of her great-grandfather, a conscientious objector during the First World War.

As part of the UK’s arts programme for the centenary, the film aims to explore “the morality of war past and present.”

Inspired by research into the conscientious objectors of the First World War at the Imperial War Museum, Matt Adams based his script on interviews with British Army veterans and their stories of “training, frontline combat, banter, bullying and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.”

The camera followed the female lead, SJ (Isis Davis), as she ran around the army base, comitted to her role and determined to pull it off.  She encountered ghosts of past wars and the emotional trauma experienced by today’s soldiers.

The film was framed by the men who objected to serving in the First World War for reasons of conscience and their maltreatment in army camps.

Bloodyminded dug deep into the hazy rights and wrongs of war and examined where violence sits within our own moral compass.

Sid (Theo Barklem-Biggs), SJ’s brother, was the tormented sergeant. As dusk approached the camera crew were quickly losing the light.

Unshaken by the complications of live streaming, Barklem Biggs’ closing monologue was the kind that hits you in the back of the throat. A nod to the many British soldiers suffering with PTSD after serving in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

The interactivity came when the narrator, Harold Steele, the name of a real conscientious objector and for the sake of the story SJ’s grandfather, asked us some poignant questions. The audience sent personal responses from our phones.

We were asked what we are fighting for in our own lives and our answers scrolled up the screen like credits.

The audience laughed at the snide comments that crept up the screen: “I am fighting for better cinema”. But the answers that resonated with the audience had a bigger impact: “LGBT rights”, “my children”, “my own mental health”, “pacificim”.

Bloodyminded reminded us that technology still has its limitations. We might be moving towards interactive TV shows and choosing our own endings, but live streaming a one shot feature length interactive film in October, at dusk, in the UK, is still a risk.

Despite the technical issues the film was an educational experience. We learnt never to underestimate the physical and mental strain that war has on our soldiers. We learnt that live streaming a single shot feature length film is very difficult. And we learnt that it gets dark early in October.


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