My great grandfather Wilbye survived the Somme. His brother Harry was killed in Belgium. My dad still has Wilbye’s signet ring on his finger. WW1 – and the Battle of the Somme – have always loomed large in my mind. The history. The poetry. My own family connection. The horror and carnage of it. The pointlessness. This film was my way of trying to connect with those experiences, and Paul Muldoon’s insightful and compassionate poem left us with the relatively simple task of creating space for it to sink in. These days, the Somme area is a banal agricultural backwater, but the landscapes still feel haunted by the atmosphere of what happened there. I recce-ed the locations with my dad, and my sister produced the film, so it’s really been a family affair, and I’m very proud of it.
The voiceover is by Lloyd Hutchinson and the sound by Jake Ashwell; click through for the full credits. The film was commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Writers Centre Norwich as part of the Fierce Light project.
British animator Suzie Hannah teamed up with New Zealand’s poet laureate Bill Manhire for this poetry film, part of the Fierce Light series co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, Norfolk and Norwich Festival and Writers Centre Norwich. It was “Voiced by Stella Duffy, with Sound Design by Phil Archer,” says the description on Hannah’s website, which continues:
Mud and and pigment animation interpreting Bill Manhire’s poem about tragic death of youths in WW1, comprised of 14 short epitaphs for unknown NZ soldiers killed at the Somme, and for unnamed refugees drowning as they flee from wars now, 100 years later.
The film has been selected for screening at the following: 14th London Short Film Festival 2017, Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2016, O Bhéal Poetry Film Festival 2016, Zebra Poetry Film Festival 2016, Interfilm 32nd International Short Film Festival Berlin 2016
“Known Unto God writes the epitaphs to the lost of our world: those fallen soldiers of the Somme whose bodies were never found; those refugees of today who drown seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Bill Manhire and Suzie Hanna have created a bold and powerful memorial to the voiceless, and a reminder that WW1 was a conflict that shook the entire world, and that our lives have grown ever more interconnected since. ” Sam Ruddock, Writers Centre Norwich
This is Across Fields, a film by Tim Davies incorporating British poet Daljit Nagra‘s tribute to the great World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon, who fought in the Battle of the Somme, paired with “Site-responsive video recorded in and around the Bois de Mametz in the Somme Valley,” as the credits inform us. The poem and film were commissioned by a poetry project called Fierce Light:
Perhaps no art form captured the complexity and terror of the First World War more acutely than poetry. Drawing on their experiences, poets used their art to reflect on the war’s impact: from the horrors of the battlefield to the ways in which the conflict rendered a familiar world unrecognisable to those left living in it.
Fierce Light brought together leading poets from countries that participated in the First World War, including Yrsa Daley-Ward, Jackie Kay, Bill Manhire, Paul Muldoon and Daljit Nagra, to create new works that endeavour to understand the incomprehensible; exploring contemporary events while also contemplating the First World War. These works were presented alongside a series of specially commissioned short films, each made in response to the new poems and themes raised within them. […]
Launching with an exhibition and a special live event, Fierce Light featured the poets during the City of Literature programme at Norfolk & Norwich Festival, before the poems and films were presented on radio, at other literary festivals and online.