The Uncertain Kingdom is a short film collection commissioned in 2019 by producers John Jencks, Georgia Goggin and Isabel Freer as a satirical counterattack to the government’s bizarrely complacent “festival of Brexit” that is still theoretically scheduled to take place in 2022. This is a state-of-the-nation anthology: variously angry, comic and surreal – but weirdly not topical or contemporary in the way it was intended to be, as Covid-19 has now hijacked our every waking thought. (For example, it’s notable that there isn’t a single film here about the NHS.)
Some of the films feel redundant or over-literal but the tone of the collection is set by its more successful pieces. The most purely cinematic and ambitious film for me is Antonia Campbell-Hughes’s Acre Fall Between, a disquietingly hallucinatory, dreamlike event taking place on the deserted Irish border. Lanre Malaolu’s The Conversation is challenging and envelope-pushing, a dance piece investigating the feelings of people of colour about dating white people. Among the documentaries, Ellen Evans’s Motherland is a powerful study of the Windrush scandal and the people deported to Jamaica. Carol Salter’s Left Coast is a shrewdly observed and compassionate study of a Blackpool food bank.
Many of the comedies took on a single, absurdist high concept and played out its life-cycle within a 10-minute-span. The best of these was Jason Wingard’s Pavement, with Steve Evets as a homeless man literally sinking into the pavement outside a bank’s corporate headquarters: a Beckettian idea that climaxes with a rather moving rendition of Jerusalem. Comedy veteran Guy Jenkin gave us Death Meets Lisolette, with Hugh Dennis drolly playing an Angel of Death who has been locked in a shed, which means people can’t die even if they want to.
One piece here could be expanded. David Proud’s witty, mordant Verisimilitude is about a wheelchair user with spina bifida (played by Ruth Madeley), who has acting ambitions but must pay the bills by working as an on-set coach to a fantastically annoying and conceited non-disabled actor Josh (Laurie Davidson), showing him how to play a disabled person. This could well be developed to a full-length film, although Proud might have to resist pressure to make something too cutesy out of it.
Source: The Guardian