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Doc/Fiction Hybrid The Arbor Wins Guardian First Film Award

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood January 28, 2011 at 6:29AM

Clio Barnard's film The Arbor has won The Guardian's First Film Award. The film is a about English playwright Andrea Dunbar, best known for Rita, Sue and Bob Too, an autobiographical sexual-adventures drama about teenage girls living in the slums of Bradford, England. The play was turned into a film by Alan Clarke in 1986 and caused un uproar with residents of the Buttershaw council housing estate, where Dunbar lived.
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Thompson on Hollywood


Clio Barnard's film The Arbor has won The Guardian's First Film Award. The film is a about English playwright Andrea Dunbar, best known for Rita, Sue and Bob Too, an autobiographical sexual-adventures drama about teenage girls living in the slums of Bradford, England. The play was turned into a film by Alan Clarke in 1986 and caused un uproar with residents of the Buttershaw council housing estate, where Dunbar lived.

The Arbor uses actors lip-synching to recordings of Dunbar's family, thus raising questions of the films authentic 'documentary' status. "I don't mind what they call it," says Bardard. "It's meant to provoke. Part of the rationale was to show that truth is unstable, that true documentary will always fail." For her, it's more documentary than fiction "because of the archive material and the audio recordings…But the blurring between the two is deliberate." Dunbar died of a brain hemorrhage in 1990 at age 29.

The trailer is after the jump.

Barnard and producer Tracy O'Riordan were nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer.

[Image courtesy of Slant Magazine]

This article is related to: Awards, Directors, Genres, BAFTA, Documentaries, Biopics, Foreign


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.