This haunting film is based on Michael Symmons Roberts’s acclaimed poetry collection of the same name, interpreted by artist/filmmaker Steve Hawley with moving images drawn from 100 years of Manchester history by Marion Hewitt of the North West Film Archive. Mancunia draws on the real and unreal myths of Manchester UK, and is the first poetry film based around a city where the film is all from archive of that city – a contemporary reimagining of the city symphony films of the 1920s. The poems read by Esh Alladi and Julie Hesmondhalgh counterpoint moving images of the city, from the Whit Marches down the Deansgate of the Edwardian era, to a 1970s student riot on Oxford Street. Together the words and pictures weave a picture of Manchester from the utopian exuberance of the opening of the Ship Canal through the depression of the 60s clearances, to the resurgence of the present.
Steve Hawley is an artist who has been working with film and video since 1981, and his work has been shown at video festivals and broadcast worldwide since then. He has been collaborating with Tony Steyger off and on since their video The Science Mix was shown at the Stedelijk and MoMA NY in 1983. His original preoccupation was with language and image, and in 1995 his experimental documentary made with Tony Steyger on artificial languages was broadcast on Channel 4 TV.
More recently his work has looked at new forms of narrative, in such works as Love Under Mercury, his first film for the cinema, which won a prize at the Ann Arbor film festival, and Amen ICA Cinema 2002, a palindromic video which won the prize for most original video at the Vancouver Videopoem festival.
He has explored issues around the impact of new technologies on narrative. Yarn 2011, uses the DVD medium to create a never ending story, and Actor 2013 makes film without a camera by putting the performer in a motion capture suit.
Manchester Time Machine 2012, made with the North West Film Archive is the first ever iPhone app to combine archive film footage and GPS and is part of a project looking at the nature of the city, including Not to Scale 2009 (filmed in a series of model towns). His work with the Archive has also included War Memorial 2017 which was nominated for best short documentary at the Sheffield DocFest, and the recently completed Mancunia with poet Michael Symmons Roberts.