Death is the State- A Short Film

Death is the State: a short film

Move along the narrow, cracked paths. The canal slow flowing stench intoxicates. The street lights offer solace to subterfuge. Walkways reveal the non-human animals colonising subterranean space. Glass fronted apartments see the great and good peer over the city stripped of its function. This cradle of industry. Shards of light pixelate. The noise of underground carparks release sudden and disconcerting blasts. Search through time in-between space, the factories that once housed mechanisms of steel and toxic petro-chemicals. Where men, for they were mostly men, daily inhaled slow consuming death. Now? Regenerated, but what has been generated? Two distant classes move uneasily alongside each other in this ‘classless’ society. The once glorious, now shells of production, the forlorn canal ways separate the towers of media movers and university students from the low rise labyrinth of the dispossessed ‘jobseekers’. Production has ceased but exploitation, social disparity and surveillance merrily breathe.

Death is the State is a short film on, around, through and by Ancoats, North Manchester, and an area that was at the centre of Manchester’s industrial revolution. It nests above the city’s hipster district of alternative capitalist consumption- The Northern Quarter. [Cities now filled with quarters, sometimes many more than four.] It is flanked by the Rochdale and Ashton canals, once important trading infrastructures that hauled unprocessed raw material from the Americas into the heart of Cottonopolis, and later shipped the manufactured linens to be sold back to the New World. The area was subject to an ‘Urban Splash’ style ‘regeneration’ in the early 2000s, however this newly gentrified built environment appears to halt abruptly and tellingly around the part known as New Islington. The Ashton canal trails north from the city centre past the old cotton mills converted into apartments, navigating industrial mills that now house autospare units, a few artist studios and 7th Day Adventist halls of worship towards the Etihad Stadium- Manchester City’s football grounds and itself the result of a large-scale property speculative scheme, namely the 2002 Commonwealth Games. All around the dwellings of the former working classes crumble, decay, are torn down or left to fall into ruination.

The film is a discordant wander through the psycho-structural spaces of the city. The sudden shifts and ruptures in aspect ratios reflect the ad hoc and incongruous manner in which areas are planned and developed. Changes in video stock and format speaks to the uneven and disorientating bricolage of hard structures and smooth, alienating surfaces. We layer images to reproduce the historical and economic discontinuity of the cityscape. This is Ancoats remixed, our psychological and emotional response to a specific topography. Other filmmakers might see Ancoats in a very different light and hue. We choose to represent the spaces of human and non-human animals as both struggle to master or are overwhelmed by their physical surroundings. Oddly, Death is the State also functions as an archival document as many of the buildings we filmed between the Ashton Canal and Pollard St. (a series of low rise council flats opposite the derelict Bank of England pub, a shell of a factory next to the Hope mill complex, a large ruined Georgian former private dining rooms of the industrial brass next to the apartment blocks of converted mills) that ran along the newly extended Tramline have been surreptitiously demolished. The next round redevelopment/gentrification begins, and the ephemeral character of Ancoats is once more revealed.



Direction & Camera: Paddy Baxter & Shane Lawlor

Editing & After Effects: Insa Langhorst

Field Sound Recording & Design: Shane Lawlor

Sound Dubbing: Keith Lindsey

Unnamed Man: Dale Kuntzler

Death is the State’ Written by:  Shane Lawlor


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