East End Film Festival: Brexitannia

East End Film Festival - Brexitannia
Directed by Timothy George Kelly
Screening at East End Film Festival June 23rd, 2017

by Bernie C. Byrnes

In the wake of the most momentous event in modern British political history, director Timothy George Kelly travelled the length of the UK, speaking to people on both sides of the Brexit divide – This documentary is brilliant!

There are some immensely likeable people in this film, there are some bright and interesting people in this film, there are some intelligent and educated people in this film, and there are also some dyed-in-the-wool fuckwits – on both sides. And sides are important in Brexitannia, as is its impressive execution of a fine balancing act. This documentary is a fascinating snapshot of Brexit Britain.

There’s no debate – of course, how can there be – just people talking directly to camera about their thoughts and feelings about the EU referendum. It’s also an excellent insight into just how bonkers British people are. Brexitannia is like a really good night at the pub with the: ‘her next door has got new windows’ edited out. It is about the class divide, it has to be, but not snobbish. Some of the brightest diamonds in this presentation are from poor working-class backgrounds. Some of the worst offenders are too – ditto for the middle class participants. This documentary doesn’t look to lecture and any judgements are so skillfully veiled that politicians would do well to treat it like a master class.

What makes this documentary so good is the undetectable editing and selecting that has gone into it. It looks effortless and natural, which means Kelly must have worked his socks off! Even down to the choice of the footage being black and white. Make no mistake this is smart filmmaking. I learned nothing new, I did not change any of my opinions, but I really enjoyed hearing other people’s thoughts, even if I wanted to punch several of them in the face.

My advice is to see this film with someone else, preferably a first date, because you’re going to want to talk about it and talking about it will reveal masses about who that other person is.

This documentary is topical and relevant, but it also has a legacy as a fascinating documentation of life in Britain in 2016. I look forward to re-watching this film in ten, twenty and (if any of us are still here) thirty years time.

Brexitannia is a gentle, loving celebration of British people. True we are a bit lost right now, often quite shitty, and looking for the bad guy in the wrong place, but it’s not our fault. Read the history books – this was always going to happen…


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