John Smith
‘Blight’, 1996
16mm film transferred to video, colour, sound; 14 mins

‘Blight’ was made in collaboration with the composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. The images in the film record some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people.

Although it is entirely constructed from records of real events, ‘Blight’ is not a straightforward documentary. The film exploits the ambiguities of its material to produce new meanings and metaphors, frequently fictionalizing reality through framing and editing strategies. The emotive power of music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention.

"A stunning montage depicts the destruction of a London street to make way for new roads. The rhythmic, emotive soundtrack is partly musical and partly a collage of the residents’ voices. Shots and sounds echo and cross-link in the film’s 14 minutes to reinvent a radical documentary tradition."
- A.L. Rees "A History of Experimental Film and Video" 1999

14th Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Germany, 1998 Best International Short Film
42nd Cork International Film Festival, Ireland, 1997 Best European Short Film
40th Leipzig International Documentary and Animation Festival, Germany. 1997 Golden Dove (best short documentary)
33rd Chicago International Film Festival, USA, 1997 Gold Plaque (best experimental film)
16th Uppsala International Short Film Festival, Sweden. Film Jackdaw (best experimental film)
43rd Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, Germany, 1997 Prix Regional and Youth Film Prize
3rd International Biennale of Film and Architecture, Graz, Austria, 1997 Special Critics Award
2nd Bangkok Experimental Film Festival, Thailand, 1999 Audience Prize