Caught by the River

Video Strolls Film of the Month: The Devil's Footprints

20th December 2016

Video Strolls choose a film per month to showcase on Caught by the River. Here, Liberty Rowley introduces this month’s selection:

To mark the festive season, Video Strolls’ Film of the Month for December features a spooky tale set in the snow, heavy rain and a reluctant child forced to accompany her father on a family day out.

The father is Mythogeographer Phil Smith, and he is taking us on a tour of South Devon, covering the route of The Devil’s Footprints: a creepy, unexplained phenomena that occurred in 1855 when a series of cloven-hooved footprints appeared in the snow, apparently made by a creature walking on two legs, and covering 40 miles of Devon countryside and rooftops.

Phil says: “The Devil’s Footprints is a mixture of preparation and improvisation. At one level it is the culmination of a few years of exploratory and performance walking in South Devon, at another it is about our responses to the logistics of covering the ground. A film about walking space becomes a film that takes place much in a car. Visits to seaside resorts are dominated by pouring rain. The umbrella theme of the film – the idea of a malevolent trail of technologists – arises during the filming and is improvised on the spot. Once filmed, Siobhán Mckeown’s edit transforms it all over again.”

The film Siobhan presents gives us an intriguingly fragmented view of this road trip, including listening to Psychogeographer Iain Sinclair on the car radio, and Phil’s recounting of all sorts of weird, wonderful, sinister, mundane, historical and mythic tales about the places they travel through. This series of apparently disjointed fragments joining to make a whole is a perfect representation of Phil’s practice of Mythogeography. In Mythogeography, everything you encounter on a walk: each sight, sign, person, feeling, changes the course of the journey; you must be constantly aware, sensitive and ready to interpret what you see. He explains: “At its simplest, Mythogeography is a way of walking, thinking and visiting a place on many levels at the same time. Anyone can do it. You can do it. Walking becomes a performance, walkers become performers and the route becomes their co-star. In a city, for example, walkers become aware of their urban home as a site, a forum, a playground and a stage: all there to enjoy, understand and provoke on multiple levels. The levels of the city are reflected back in the many levels of the walker – the public and the private, fact and dream, admissible and inadmissible, forgotten and remembered, past and future.”

Find Part 1 of the film below. Parts 2 and 3 can be found here.

You can find the the previous Video Strolls posts here.

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