The result of a collaboration between director Kieran Evans and musician Karl Hyde of Underworld, The Outer Edges is a documentary exploring the characters and geography of the boarder between London and Essex. The surprisingly alluring film, plays out to Hyde’s poetic narration, following a route down the river Roding to the docks on the Thames estuary. Although the film is a companion piece to Hyde’s new album Edgeland, it has a life of its own, which will amuse and intrigue those local to the area and those from beyond.
Director Kieran Evans assembles a visual portrait of the seldom seen side of the East End, comprised of part natural, part industrial scenery and many unique characters. The locations are as diverse as the people, which makes for a continually intriguing 74 minutes. The film opens with a fantastic line from allotment enthusiast Pete, “No politics, no religion, no sex, it’s an allotment,” before looking elsewhere to a diverse cast of individuals, including Bangladeshi woman Shamim, tour guide Maurice, a group of young boxers, Dagenham market trader Chris and ex-cruise ship performer Bonnie. Each character embodies an aspect of the locale, as Evans weaves a surprisingly rich tapestry of culture.
By seeking out and sincerely listening to the array of interesting characters Evans imbues the film with warmth, which seems at odds with the more industrialised locations in the film. Set to static shots framed by Evans, Hyde’s subtle, poetic narration creates an intriguing mental journey through the outer edges. It is clear that the filmmakers are comfortable with their loving view of the strange, melancholy land around the river Roding. For this reason it is easy to become drawn into the world and even revel in the absurdly beautiful scars that the brute force of industry has left on the landscape.
More than a companion piece to an album, The Outer Edges is a necessary look at a diverse environment, which some people rely on, while others commute through. It asks London dwellers to pause and consider the actual breadth of their environment, as well as the unique personalities that reside within. As a closing title for the 2013 East End Film Festival, The Outer Edges is a superb piece of programming. By putting the outer edges of London centre stage it does precisely what the East End Film Festival should do: showcase the treasure within this diverse and sometimes chaotic city.