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Betty and her daughter are introduced to the seacoaling way of life by Ray, the offer of a caravan on a cliff top and its Klondyke promises preferable to the violent marriage she has left behind.
Her struggle for survival is set against those of the seacoaling community, surviving on the fringes of capitalism.
Despite the exploitation by a local entrepreneur, run-ins with dole snoops and School Board men and the ever encroaching regulations of a hostile council, their lives retain an anarchic romance captured in the film’s lyrical style.
Filmed on Lynemouth Beach in the North East of England, framed by power station and pit, the inspiration for Seacoal came from the staggering visual location and the bleak energy of capitalism in the raw.
For generations local people and travellers have made a living from collecting waste coal washed ashore.
Amber bought a caravan on the site and began work on what was to become its first feature film, an experimental mix of drama and real life.
The production team lived with the seacoalers on and off for two years, the daily events of the camp incorporated into the film as
straight documentary, improvised sketches or fully dramatised reconstructions.
Cast includes: Ray Stubbs, Amber Styles, Brian Hogg, Sammy Johnson, Benny Graham, The Laidler Family, Trevor Critchlow,
Val Waciak, Gordon Tait, John Cook, Stan Robinson.
Screenplay by Tom Hadaway.
Made under the auspices of the ACTT Workshop Declaration with financial assistance from Northern Arts and Channel Four Television.
1985 Running time: 82 mins
Colour. Aspect ratio 4:3. Mono
English Language. French Subtitle option
Marks & Spencer Award, Tyneside (85)
European Film Award, Munich (86)
The European prize went to Seacoal by unanimous vote. Even though the group insists there is no dominant creative individual there is evidently a real film genius at work here. The film triumphantly demonstrates that the more specific, local instance can often provide the most significant illumination of the human predicament. David Robinson, The Times.