The Cobbler’s Tale

is the first in a trilogy of films made between 2002 and 2006 about traditional dying trades.

I had heard that there was a good shoe repair place up on Coatsworth Rd Gateshead. I took my shoes up there and first met Bill Pasola. After a few repairs I knew he was a master of his trade. I also knew I wanted to make a film with him. Visiting his shop and seeing the work space was a sort of history lesson. I had seen the Viking shoe benches at the Jorvik Museum in York, and Bill’s bench looked so similar, many of the tools he used were much the same. But besides his craft there was a quality in the man, the way in which he carried himself and related to people. I felt he had the shoulders to carry a film. He agreed to the documentary and I have to say it was a privilege to work with him. He was always considerate and thoughtful though I knew from Bill that times were hard in the trade. The film was shot in 2002 and taken up again and finished in 2007 when faced with fewer and fewer customers, Bill closed the business.

The cobbler himself is a rare combination: both individual and architype, both a face and a skilled pair of hands. The cobbler is the man who repairs your shoes, but he is also a man who has allowed his shop to extend out into the world so that through the tensions of the shoe repair business, our understanding of our world is deepened. The cobbler's shop is located in a run down street in Gateshead in the North East of England. This neighbourhood is home to a large Sephardic Jewish Community and has the largest Talmudic college in Europe. Shot between 2001 and 2006, the film captures some of the passions triggered by the events of 9-11 as the traditional values of the cobbler engage with the committed world view of the Jewish Community.

During these encounters, which take place during the everyday business of buying shoe laces or having a pair of shoes reheeled, the Cobbler's shop is transformed into a highly polished surface in which for a brief moment we can glimpse the fault lines of Israel and the Middle East.

The shop, the eye of the cobbler, is a mirror relecting back to the viewer images of some of the salient social and psychological processes that like tectonic plates, underlie our culture. Not just the sort of uncertain world where giant buildings are blown apart , but the more sort of mundane uncertain world where people's shoes start to fall to pieces only weeks after they have bought them.

The cobbler, represents an old fashioned type and is seen as such by his clients. They have faith in his skills and his knowledge and want to believe that he can mend anything. But often, all the cobbler can do is shake his head as he explains to his customers why their soles cannot be saved - the big shoe manufacturers make them like that.

The Cobblers Last Tale is not so much a narrative as a discontinuous parable in which shoes, in the hands of a master, bare witness to the way of the world.

2002 and 2007, UK, dv, 38 mins

Featuring - Bill Pasola
Music - Iona Brown
Commentary - Simon Barnes
Editor - Robert Hargreaves
Produced and Directed - Adrin Neatrour
Distributed by Espresso TV
7 Heathfield Rd
London W3 8EH
Tel + 44 20 89 60 55 25
Fax+ 44 20 89 60 40 54


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