Passing Through is a short documentary exploring time, belonging and suburban and rural living through the lens of a 150 mile walk from London to Birmingham along the Grand Union Canal. Treading the towpath between two cities, the filmmaker traces towns and villages that are easily ignored on countless train journeys along the West Coast Main Line. A 14-day walking expedition allows the audience to slow down and experience the English landscape with an intimacy that is rare in our high-speed mechanised world. Along the way we meet Jamie, a young man from Berkhamsted, Max, a freelance journalist living in Tring, Louis, a BMX rider from Milton Keynes, Heather, an artist working from a studio in Braunston, and Paula, the owner of a café at Hatton Locks. These interviews act as windows into Britain, giving voice to the emotional and economic realities of small-town living.
Made during the MA Ethnographic & Documentary Film by Practice at UCL.
This film was screened at Whitechapel Gallery in January 2022 as part of 'Underway: Four Essay Films' and in Birmingham as part of Flatpack Festival 2022. It was also screened online as part of a series of short films curated by Lasse Johansson on Cryptofiction.
In January 2023, Passing Through was screening at the ICA as part of London Short Film Festival.
Passing Through (September 2021)Director's Statement: The idea for Passing Through originated as a reaction to the HS2 project. Aside from the practical concerns of cost and damage to ancient woodland and wildlife habitats, the concept of a high-speed rail and further mechanisation of our landscape seemed to me somewhat troubling. The speeding up of our already hyper-convenient society risks the loss of what slow movement can offer: direct sensory experience of the landscape and an empirical knowledge of the spaces in between towns, cities and villages.
A single walking journey between London (my place of residence) and Birmingham (my hometown) conjured the theme of homecoming but I was more curious about the uncanny resonance of abstract place names and station platforms that I’ve passed through on the train home. I was interested in the identity of these places, their similarities and differences to major city living. I chose the canal as my path due to its embodiment of a slow, nomadic way of life but ironic history as the mode of transport which began the industrialisation of Britain. The canal was not long ago the height of manmade technology; now it has become part leisure facility, part nature reserve.
To change the landscape we must first change our perspective towards it. In our high-tech globalised world, with growing distance from the sources of our material objects and a rapidly changing climate, the attempt to intimately experience our landscape seems necessary. My investigation into the space between the two cities I call home is an attempt to close this gap. The central question of the film is: how can we best experience a landscape? Passing Through presents a personal experience, as a deeply personal experience is what it prescribes the viewer for their own journeys, but along with this it will recommend playfulness, curiosity, interaction and inquisition.