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Watkins and Hur

Posted at 9:38 AM on September 25, 2006 by Euan Kerr

I got a few chills from the past on Saturday listening to Scott Simon and Elvis Mitchell discussing the release of Peter Watkins work on DVD. Watkins is best known for his 1965 film "The War Game" which acted out what would happen if a nuclear attack hit Britain. Watkins used what were essentially documentary techniques to making feature films. This brought a reality to his work which had been seldom seen at the time. While made for TV "The War Game" was not aired for decades on TV because it was so disturbing. Many of us saw it screened at schools and colleges in later years. It's an incredible film and immensely creepy.

Just as powerful was a film he made in 1964 called "Culloden" which presented a dispassionate portrayal of the last pitched battle on British soil when the Earl of Cumberland defeated the Jacobite army under the command of the man best known as Bonnie Prince Charlie. The victory in 1746 caused a political change in the Scottish Highlands which in time led to the Highland Clearances, where people were driven off their land and replaced by sheep. Many people of Scots descent round the world can trace their ancestors departure to that date. "Culloden" is also an extremely disturbing film, but well worth seeing for the historical context it provides, and the lessons it can provide for today.

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While you are at the NPR site check out Anita Elsh's story about the live action performance of "Ben Hur" in Paris. It's cinematic obsession at it's finest.

September 2006
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