'Finding Richard' is a little film that's big on story and charm from the production company of Hive Films. I enjoyed today's screening in a gilt-decorated, wood-panelled room at Leicester's Guildhall - the perfect setting. The film features a boy's quest to connect with history - or more importantly with his grandfather - and this take on 'Gulliver's Travels' leads from garden shed to a muddy field to an unexpected tryst. Grandad - aka 'The Professor' - is played by none other than Colin Baker. Appropriately enough for an ex-Time-Lord, he has a shed packed with gadgets and a passion for amateur archaeology. Baker lights up the screen with a gentle energy that draws his young co-star into its warmth. Director Rhys Davies wisely makes this relationship the heart of the film.
'The Professor' directs a dig to be undertaken by his grandson 'Gull', winningly played by young comedian David Knight (12 years old from Britain's Got Talent). His quest is inspired by the news that Leicester University archaeologists have unearthed the bones of Richard III in a Leicester car-park. Soon Gull is busy with a spade and metal detector, like a one-boy Time Team, in a stretch of rain-soaked football field near Leicester's Tudor Road. He finds a few items of questionable 'provenance' - I'll say no more - but the final scene has a pay-off that knits together his granddad's past and Gull's future in a sweetly understated moment.
I feel sure this film will repay more than one viewing. My own favourite moments and images are Gull's 'tent' in the opening scene with its montage of gothic gargoyles and toy knights; his always off-screen mother shouting up 'Switch that light off Gulliver!', the best cameo by a beseeching dog and the rose china tea-cup granddad sets beside a framed photograph at the end. The upbeat original music matched the warmth of the film's colour palette but gave hints of an undertow of a poignancy as subtle as Baker's performance. Unsurprisingly, this film garnered positive reviews at Cannes Film Festival where it has just been premiered. And with the news that those hotly-contested bones are to be interred in Leicester cathedral, it is destined to find a permanent home in a new dedicated museum.
Personally I find it difficult to be moved by the plight of a feudal monarch. The ill-fated Richard will be accorded a final 'dignity' but I doubt there was much for the lowly tenants and 'men-of arms' who slogged through the slaughter of Bosworth's battlefield. However if it helps people including children to connect to history as Gull did, that's a good thing. And even better this tale - which is 'about a boy' rather than a king - showcases the talents of today's generation. I was delighted to hear from the film's co-writer Douglas Cubin that Leicester's home-grown film industry is burgeoning with several feature films and 10 more 'shorts' underway in the city this year. 'Finding Richard' will surely fly the flag for Leicester's rich cultural output, alongside that raft of musicians who have put the city on TV's map recently. It will delight tourists and locals alike, and its themes about finding your own place in the world through imagination and persistence will resonate with all ages.
Writing is a journey, both imaginary and physical. My first book took me to the Arctic to 'catch the colours' of the Northern Lights. Then I hunkered down to catch the wind-blown voices of polar explorers on Shackleton's 1914-17 Endurance expedition. More recently I'm obsessed by space: the race, the rockets, the final frontier.
Hear a BBC Radio Leicester interview about my space poetry at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03wfpyp
Explore my digital narrrative PHILAE'S BOOK OF HOURS, published by the European Space Agency, at:
My prose-poetry collections FIREBRIDGE TO SKYSHORE
and MAD, HOPELESS & POSSIBLE are both published by Original Plus Press at:
Contact me for signed copies or bookings at:
- Leicester, East Midlands
- As a storyteller, my work crosses boundaries of myth, science, history and spoken word. It has been presented in the British Science Museum, Ledbury Poetry Festival, National Space Centre and the European Space Agency website. In 2014 I ran a digital residency on WW1 for 14-18NOW and Writing East Midlands. I teach Creative Writing at De Montfort University and have experience of leading school events, workshop tuition and mentoring.