Feb 14 2013 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
talent on the A5
WHEN you leave your country and come to a new place you lose your home twice,” said one of the subjects of the documentary about the A5.
He was one of the people who have come from thousands of miles away and whose lives are revealed by Marc Issacs, a documentary filmmaker who never intended to record life on the A5.
He said: “Originally I was wanting to make a film about people coming to London. I didn’t know where I was going to set it. I was living in the area and it was a place to start. I didn’t really know that it was an old Roman road, I discovered that when I started researching.”
The road runs across north-west London, from Marble Arch to Edgware, passing through Maida Vale, Kilburn and Cricklewood, Colindale, Burnt Oak and Edgware.
As it passes through the suburbs, the road name changes several times, becoming Kilburn High Road and Cricklewood Broadway. It becomes Edgware Road before leaving the area and continuing all the way to Holyhead, Wales.
Marc, who grew up in East London, lives in the Kilburn area and said when he started research for the film he realised the road held a wealth of interesting, heartbreaking and perplexing stories. He said: “I have only been living here a couple of years. I have never lived on a road that was always full of people from everywhere.
“I believe every film needs a starting point and I needed to find an environment to set it and for that to become a character in the film as well.”
Marc and a team of researchers spent 18 months talking to people, visiting cafes and pubs and bingo halls on the street getting to know people and building up relationships.
He said: “We would go into cafes where Somalis were chewing khat, walking into the bingo hall, very much just doing the leg work.
“We were just open to discovery.
“I was always looking for stories that were bigger than what they are. Individual stories that could be emblematic of the immigrant experience – it was about more than just their individual situation.
“You know you have found it when you find universal themes.”
The film tells the stories people who have left their homes thousands, or hundreds, of miles away in search of something else, something different and hopefully better. We see each character at a different stage in their life, some questioning their situation more than others. The film shows a young Irish woman with dreams of becoming a singer.
She takes a job pulling pints in Cricklewood, serving the generations of Irish people who came over before her – a lonely Irish ex-construction worker losing his battle with booze, a hotel worker from Kashmir trying to earn enough money so his wife can join him, an elderly Jewish woman who fled Vienna when it was under the Nazi regime, and a glamorous retired German air stewardess living with her estranged husband.
Iqbal Ahmed, who wrote a book about the area, says in the film: “It’s the same for everyone and it’s the same for me – when you leave your country and come to a new place you lose your home twice.
“You lose the place you have come from. It will be impossible to go back once you have burnt the bridges, and then, the place you have high hopes of, you think it will be the most civilised place in the world but then you learn this cannot be true.”
Marc said he built up strong relationships with the contributors while making the film.
“What we see in film is a relationship over a prolonged period of time,” he said. “It is like any relationship, it is built on trust. You have to know that your intentions are in keeping with what they were getting into for the film. I showed them previous films and I just became ‘Marc’, not a film crew.”
The road does become a character in itself and binds the individual strands in the story together.
Marc, who is known for films such as All White in Barking, Men of the City, and Lift, said: “The idea can be replicated because I think stories are universal but there is a character to the place that can’t be replicated – it does have a character. You can see that this generation will come to be a part of London.
“The A5 does have a character, it starts in the middle of Edgware with all the hustle and bustle and it takes you out to back and beyond. There are people who never go there, but if you scratch the surface you find interesting things, like monks in a house in Colindale.”
Marc said he sees the area in a different light after learning so much about the road.
He said: “I now know the area a lot more than before, I don’t just walk past and wonder what is going on, I know particular places and people. It changes your perspective and you know stories and you know more about the truth of what is behind each door.”
n The film is made by Bungalow Town Productions in association with Crow Hill Films for the BBC. It opens in cinemas on Friday, February 22, and there is a screening at The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn High Road, on Sunday, February 24. For more information see www.tricycle.co.uk.