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Life On London’s Docks: “The Rime of the Modern Mariner”

For eons, Britain has lived and died by the sea. Cut off from mainland Europe by the English channel and from the West by the Atlantic Ocean, the sea has been both a treasure trove for the Brits, supplying them with food, trade roots, and, more recently, oil, while providing them with a strategic moat that defended them from all but the most enterprising invaders. “Fortress England”, they called it. From the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, to the colonization of the Americas, to their defiant stand in WWII, the Brits, and the English in particular, have defined themselves by their relationship with the seas. But now several generations into the Jet Age, that relationship is aging, its culture close to forgotten, and its modern incarnation—the shipping industry—gets little attention. But a new documentary on dock life in London, “No Place/Good Place: The Rime Of The Modern Mariner”, seeks to change all that.

Debuting this fall, “The Rime of the Modern Mariner” is a slick, moody look into the young immigrants and old geezers that still inhabit the docks and ports littered along the Thames. Though much of riverside London is now dominated by tall glass towers, there is still need (and room) for the slow dance of tugboats and massive tanker ships, even if they represent a dying, often ignored part of British culture and the British economy. With visuals recalling Godfrey Reggio’s “Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance” with a score and narration by blue-collar rockers Anthony Rossomando and Carl Barat of The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, the doc seems to want to remind the English of their Thameside heritage without putting an artificial gloss on the hard, gritty work of eeking out a living on the edges of the sea. With the film debuting at the upcoming East End Film Festival next month, preview suggests the film should be a surreal, slow-motion vacation—one that may be exotic even for those who live only a few hundred yards away from the docks.

For more films that use old London town as their backdrop, pick up a copy of “FILM + TRAVEL: Europe” today.

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