Dir. Ed Boase
. UK. 2011.

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A fictional film with a documentary streak in it, or a documentary film with a fictional slant on it.  It is hard to say what the film is, nevertheless it remains a unique piece of British filmmaking.

Based around amateur footage, shot in 2005, of an animal rights campaign group that attempts to kidnap and scare a pro-hunt campaigner and his travelling party.  Combined with talking heads footage of the 'survivors' means that you get a narrative and opinion of the footage that you see. Rather than making you own mind up on the footage presented, you are asked to question each character's motives and actions.

The injection of an American character as the most anti-hunt voice, whom is also female, and black to boot, is a clever trick of the audience's emotions and expectations; she is the stranger in a strange land having a very strange day.  The term 'blooded' which gives the film its title, refers to the act of putting bloodstains of the killed animal on the person who has killed the animal, tellingly it is the American who has to be 'blooded'.

The Bell family in this film, come from wealth and prestige and so feel like they deserve the opportunity to hunt.  Tellingly, with the film is set in 2005, the events of hunting are of a past existence not of this lifetime, so you can take the events at face value and is a work of fiction.

You can sense my own confusion in trying to categorise the film; documentary, mockumentary, a conversion of the fictional action film.  Either way, in this day and age of torture porn, and where mainstream media news pleasingly shows us footage from the frontline of Libya, Egypt and other middle east regions, this is the next step.  Where people are hunted as if they are animals, this has been alluded to in fiction films before but never in a film brave enough to put the misery and pain of hunting in such a realistic form.  As the choice of landscape, the Scotish island of Mull, is a brilliant location; as a grown adult without clothes, cars, weapons, technology, they are pretty useless in the scheme and pathetic against the majesty of the Highlands.

Sometimes it seems like there is more than a documentary underneath; as one of the hunted wake up the camera glides over their leg as the morning cold wind hits, the hairs stand up on the leg and their is a fade and melt into a treetop range; a shot of real confidence and self-belief in this film, cinematography by Kate Reid.

The film makes sure to not be for, nor against the conflicting ideologies presenting opposing views: 'either he is a bad shot, or a good shot trying to miss' and 'I eat meat, but I hate killing'. This contradiction in terms in indicative of the argument about fox hunting and the animal rights activists.  You hate the endangerment of animals, yet you would eat meat pleasingly in spite of their own personal beliefs and ideologies.  It does not stand on either side of pro- or anti-hunting, it is bold and intelligent enough to say we are human beings and can decide for ourselves in this instance.

Much controversy has been aimed at the producers of the picture, stating it is pro-hunting, but how can a film that puts the leading protagonists lives at such risk by way of hunting be deemed pro-hunting, especially when it is the anti-hunt campaigners who use hunting to make their point, nevermind the use of a dangerous mixture of chloroform to knock out their victims, which used incorrectly could be lethal.  The film does not set to make out a political statement and instead contradicts the views of extremists and strong personal opinions.

A flaw I feel in this film is the obvious differences between the actors who tell the story and the actors who depict them in the story.  For the first few occasions, you believe it to be a mistake, but owing to watching documentaries and enough episodes of 'Crimewatch' in the UK, maybe this is not a flaw but just how things are done in reconstructions.  Also when the hunters have lead pro-hunt campaigner Lucas Bell at their mercy, the scene is too long in its depiction, as his brother Charlie and Ben, watch on intently and unsure of what to do.  The pace of the film slows down at this point, to the overall detriment of the film's thriller principles.

Whilst the British film industry finds itself in a time of crisis and foreboding, this film of remarkable assurance, deftly produced (by Nick Ashdon) and finely constructed provides hope for British film.  The screenplay by James Walker based on a story by the director, is heavily indebted to those groundbreaking works Touching The Void and The Blair Witch Project , themselves small films that ballooned into monster hits.  As I trust and hope this film may well do also.
Jamie Garwood

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