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James Pomerantz recently posted on Movies About Photography. Not surprisingly I added Standard Operating Procedure to the fray in the comments section.

Not a movie, but every part cinematic, I implore you to watch Shooting the Past by the stellar Stephen Poliakoff. It is a three part mini series. Back when it was first released (1999) I watched it alone in my parents house for three Thursdays running … even refusing trips to the pub to watch it undisturbed. It’s a glorious, delicate piece of television; tragic, persuasive and eventually uplifting. One of those that leaves you sat still and quiet five minutes after the credits have rolled.

The premise is simple. Big, faceless American corporation sends business-like minion (Liam Cunningham) to oversee the break-up and sale of an old photography archive in a mid-sized, regional, musty museum. The museum is staffed by an eccentric archivist (Timothy Spall) and a strong, caring custodian-director (Lindsay Duncan).

The staff must – over the course of a few days – convince the administrator to turn his focus from the bottom-line value of the collection to the intangible value of stories, histories and truths within the photographic collection, thus transforming his heart and ultimately his decision on the fate of the collection.

Spall and Duncan are a delight … Cunningham less so, but an American accent is difficult to do. In defence of Cunningham, his performance a decade later in Hunger (another of my favourites) was remarkable.

So, there you are. My most heartfelt recommendation.

I earnestly urged someone to watch Shooting the Past a few years back, but the last time I was round at their place I saw it still wrapped in cellophane in the DVD cupboard. That hurt. Shooting the Past should be relished.


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