Monday, June 7, 2010

Tears of Hebden

British documentary star Nick Broomfield has blazed a trail over the years with his intimate first-person POV profiles of Heidi Fleiss, Courtney Love and now deceased U.S. serial killer Aileen Wuornos. So when he decides to take an active interest in the efforts of a fellow UK non-fiction filmmaker and affix his name as an executive producer on that person's debut, chances are it's going to be a project worth talking about.

Sure enough, the entrancingly titled documentary Shed Your Tears and Walk Away, which sneaks on Wednesday, June 9th at London's Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) ahead of a limited June 11th-24th run, was voted Best UK First Feature at the 2010 East End Film Festival and has been absolutely wowing everyone who has seen it. Writer-director Jez Lewis takes the simple premise of investigating why so many young friends in his tourist destination hometown of Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire are killing themselves or dying of drug and alcohol addition, and turns it into a powerful portrait of "Broken Britain." This in turn leads him to a year in the life of Cass, a stocky young local who has been told he will die within two years if he doesn't change his alcoholic ways.

Somewhat surprisingly, both the BBC and Channel 4 have reportedly expressed no interest in airing the documentary, which plumbs the same general area as the realist oeuvre of Ken Loach. This is all the more puzzling when you consider that Lewis and his Bungalow Town Productions partner Rachel Wexler have been working closely with both networks since they founded their company in 2004. (The pair's first effort, Philip and His Seven Wives, was a ratings record setter for the BBC program Storyville.)

Something tells me that the reticence of these networks will soon be a thing of the past. Along with screenings at film festivals in Belfast and Manchester, Shed Your Tears landed in the picturesque town that it portrays in late March, where it was warmly and very thankfully embraced. This Wednesday's special Q&A sneak preview is being staged in concert with local London charity Drugsline.

[Shed Your Tears and Walk Away]

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