Boxing Booth

Boxing Booth is the second of a trilogy of films I made about travelling British fairgrounds in the 1980's. Making the Wall of Death I had come across Ron Taylor’s Boxing Booth on Town Moor. I knew I wanted this to be the subject of the next film. I understood that the Booth wasn’t so much about the professional performers as about the public being drawn in as performers. It seemed an inexorable logic that I couldn’t remain outside the ring. And the events in my life relationships and betrayal directed the film rather than me. Ron Taylor was a delightful and helpful showman, very happy to help me. I don't think that any of his family continued with the business after his death, and at present I don't think there are any travelling Boxing Booths. So it's all real: Boxing Booth started off as a regular documentary about the last fairground Boxing Booth, but slowly inexorably the filmmaker is absorbed into the ring not so much to confront his opponent but himself.

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Camera: Maxim Ford
Editor: Lynda Fowkes, Jon Davies
Music: Nick Moes
Director: Adrin Neatrour

1984, UK, 16mm, 24 min.

Further Notes:

A friend asked me guess the composer of a piece of music he was playing. It sounded contemporary and I thought it might be Arvo Part. In fact it was Beethoven, one of the last quartets he wrote. Viewing my film 20 years after making it brings home how time referenced films are. The look and the feel of what we see are frozen into time. Realised immediate archaism. There are perhaps a few exceptions: film being film everyone will have their list of exceptions. Not only does film comprise multiple indicators and signs of its era or year of production even; but its medium its style and its structure all connote specific temporal provenance. To exist as archive does not mean that old films lack relevance meaning or the immediacy of saying something to us now - independent of historical signification or nostalgic attraction. And this was the question I wanted to pose about my film.

When viewing Boxing Booth I tried to look exactly at what was on the screen. This was torture. The editing sometimes seemed awkward and lacking rhythm; the dialogue sometimes arch and self conscious. But although I cringed and hated this they were central to the integrity of the film which was a self portrait emeshed in a documentary about the old fairground Boxing Booth. This was me. And I wasn’t smooth and still ain’t - though I have learnt to mimic smoothness. This was me as was, bad cuts silly lines and all. It was me taking on the boxing booth to find pain as a means of atoning a failed relationship and a messy abortion. It was made as my gesture. I think the film archaic as it looks still holds to this intention of seeking out judgement as self chastisement.

There is another aspect that struck me on reviewing this film - how little I’ve changed. Not physically but rather in mind in the way I make films. I regard this as my first film because I made the discovery that I wanted the films I made to be a journey started without destination or certain outcome in mind. Boxing Booth was started with the idea that I would travel with the fair and when the time came take my turn. I did not know the outcome of the film when I started making it: I knew there was a situation in which the possibility of a film existed, but that possibility could only become actual if my entire being was concentrated into it and I had confidence in the momentary forces that could resolve into the imagery action and sounds of film. But the initial step was a act of faith: there was No film. No script. Only the chance of movement.

Looking at the film at this screening I also realised that it was important for me to have made a film about myself that incorporated physical revelation and attempted honesty. The taking of unadorned and often ugly self as subject matter gave self confidence to me as a film maker. It somehow meant that in the future, as long as I retained humility before all life, that I was the equal of the people with whom I worked to make film. No matter what the subject matter - death - pain - dishonesty - I had been there in my film. And there was confidence in having made that trip that gave me the internalised right to intrude. I don’t say that my intrusions should be accepted; often they have not been. But I was not afraid on making demands; I ask questions as an equal not as a child.


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