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From the Sea to the Land Beyond on DVD in January

5 December 2012

Travelling from 1901 through both World Wars, into peacetime and the modern age, From the Sea to the Land Beyond shows our coast as a place of leisure, industry and wild nature. With an emphasis on the romantic and the ritualistic, the archive footage used in the film's assembly is rich and varied. Both film and music incorporate themes of work, play, childhood, romance, melancholy, hope, transportation, wilderness, the power of the elements and the beauty of wildlife.

Amongst many memorable and poignant images are those of a woman scaling a sheer cliff face to collect eggs, a group of Edwardian gentlemen playing beach combat games on the verge of World War I, bathers in top hats, a troupe of dancers on a pristine beach, the arrival by ship of émigrés from the Caribbean and India, the building of the Channel Tunnel, and present-day holidaymakers battling the wind and rain in Blackpool.

The film is comprised mainly of clips from four major BFI National Archive collections: the world- famous Mitchell and Kenyon films; Topical Budget (British silent era newsreels); public information films from the COI collection; travelogues from the British Transport Film Unit. This fascinating and moving film by award-winning director Penny Woolcock is a lyrical portrait of Britain's coastline, created through an exquisite combination of evocative archive footage – drawn from the BFI National Archive – and stirring music. Brighton-based band British Sea Power set the course for this cinematic voyage with an original score that ebbs and flows with the natural sounds of seagulls, ships and just the occasional snippet of speech.

From the Sea to the Land Beyond was conceived and produced by Heather Croall, director of Sheffield Doc/Fest, and Mark Atkin, director of Crossover Labs. It premiered in Sheffield's Crucible Theatre with a live score – to a standing ovation – in June 2012. The project was funded by The Space, an initiative of the BBC and The Arts Council. British Sea Power, a band famed for their live shows, have subsequently performed their original score at further screenings of the film.

In her introductory essay in the DVD booklet, director Penny Woolcock (Tina Goes Shopping, The Principles of Lust) writes:

‘In these days of formatted, factual entertainment and docu-soaps, tabloid television is created with twitchy fingers on the remote control in mind. Filmmakers find it hard to resist demands for commentaries that inform the viewer what they are about to see and reminding them of it as soon as it is over, and shovelling all the best bits in the film into the first couple of minutes and repeating later. The opportunity of making something without these attendant anxieties was irresistible.'

From the Sea to the Land Beyond will be released on UK DVD on 21st January 2013 by the BFI at the RRP of £19.99.

The special features will include this tidy little bunch:

  • Making the Sea and the Land Beyond (2013, 25 mins): documentary with interviews with British Sea Power, Penny Woolcock and producers Mark Atkin and Heather Croall
  • S.S Saxonia in Liverpool (James Kenyon, Sagar Mitchell, 1901, 3 mins): passengers and crew boarding the SS Saxonia
  • Cunard Mail Steamer Lucania Leaving for America (James Kenyon, Sagar Mitchell,1901, 3 mins): early footage of the Lucania passenger liner
  • Beside the Seaside (Marion Grierson, 1935, 23 mins): Londoners flock to the South Coast to enjoy themselves by the seaside during a heatwave
  • Worker's Weekend (Ralph Eaton, 1943, 13 mins): the workers of the Vickers Armstrong factory in Broughton assemble a Wellington Bomber in the record time of 24-and-a-half hours
  • Caller Herrin' (Alan Harper, 1947, 20 mins): the story of the herring fisheries in the North Sea
  • Introductions to all the short films by Penny Woolcock
  • British Sea Power in rehearsal (Ian Potts, 2012, 6 mins): footage of the band working on the film score
  • Film and location identification track
  • Illustrated booklet with an introductory essay by Penny Woolcock, film notes and credits

Here's an extract from the film: