Caught by the River

The Fifth Continent on Film

10th October 2019

Duncan Lawie introduces a series of short films centring on Kent’s Romney Marsh.

The people of Romney Marsh have become very familiar with a quote from the Ingoldsby Legends – but for those outside the Fifth Continent, neither the term nor the source are likely to be familiar.

The Ingoldsby Legends originally appeared as a magazine column in the 1830s, filled with an odd mix of Kentish stories and spurious parody which read a little like Beachcomber or, perhaps, a pre-Victorian Private Eye.  Their author clearly had time on his hands to create so much doggerel, some of which is still very amusing – particularly when read aloud.

But back to Romney Marsh. The Fifth Continent Partnership Scheme is named from an Ingoldsby quote: ‘The world, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Romney Marsh’. The scheme has a delightful variety of projects, from the creation of the Great Tapestry of Romney Marsh to Green Lanes for Bumblebees. The combination of wildlife and creative endeavours is exemplified in the Fifth Continent on Film.

Earlier in the summer, we had the opportunity to see the results of the Whitsun 72 Hour Film Challenge. The venue was The Old School in New Romney – itself a delightful restoration and return to community use of a building allowed to fall into dereliction.  With sandwiches, sausage rolls and a cup of tea, we sat down to view both the four film entrants along with other work that Fifth Continent and Screen South have completed in the previous year.

The non-competition films have been created in workshops, giving people a great opportunity to learn about film making, with a focus on documentary and animation. One of these included an opportune interview with Bill Hewson, MBE, who was key to saving the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in the early 1970s and who died, at the age of 98 in April this year.  The animations, by contrast, were suitably whimsical.

The competition films were also divided into documentary and drama/comedy.  First up was a five minute introduction to the Marsh, with lovely views of wide fields, endless skies and meandering ditches.  Next was a tense drama concerning a stolen pill and the handover via phone messages and dead drop – beautifully undermined by the comedy of the final scene. This was followed by a nature documentary / poem with a fox as the lead character and finally, we had Romney Marsh News, with stories of a Flash Drought, leaving paddlers stranded in the middle of fields and an epidemic of missing dogs (matched by a dog with a missing owner). The comedy of this final piece clearly tickled the audience at the screening – and the judges too, as it was declared first prize.

The Fifth Continent on Film project continues with more workshops over the coming year – including the week-long Autumn Film Challenge, which kicks off on 24th October (more info here). There are so many other activities too, drawing together nature, art, science and community.

The films from the most recent competition are now online, and can be watched here.