There was nothing like this in ‘Billy Elliot’! Money, power, sex, drugs and politics will collide in a dramatic film about the Transporter Bridge that receives its premiere on Monday (September 19).
Described as a dark, abstract film, ‘100 Years’ is set in the Victorian era and covers a dramatic tale about the building of the iconic structure across the River Tees.
Written by Middlesbrough-born director Jonathan Thompson and created by the award-winning film-makers Cold Up North, the controversial 15-minute film covers the events that lead to the building of the Transporter back in 1911 as the ghosts of that time re-inhabit the town on the eve of the bridge’s 100th anniversary.
Co-starring Charlie Walduck of ITV’s ‘This Morning’, ‘100 Years’ features professional actors and community members with no previous experience of acting.
Thorntree-based Jonathan, a freelance film-maker and photographer, said: “I was asked to make a short film for the centenary of the Transporter. It was a massive honour to mark a monumental year in the bridge’s history in this way.
“Most of the cast and crew are from Teesside and they are equally proud, as for some of them this is their first film. We have had huge support from Middlesbrough Council and the Film and Television Archive so we cannot thank them enough.”
‘100 Years’ covers the political struggle that took place over whether or not to the build the Transporter in the early part of the 20th Century, studying the relationship between the Council’s ferry committee, local businessmen and the bridge engineers.
“The film is based on historical fact but it is partly a work of fiction as well,” explains Jonathan. “It is not a documentary or a period drama.
“I’m passionate about this film and emotional about telling the story of those people who followed their dreams against the odds to build something the world would follow and never forget.
“A struggle within the ferry committee existed between Alderman Amos Hinton and Alderman Richard Archibald as to whether this new idea of a fantastic structure called a Transporter Bridge was a realistic solution to the town’s growing problem of moving a huge and growing workforce across the river without disrupting the massive flow of ships along the Tees.
“In those days Middlesbrough was an international news story. It was at the cutting edge of the industrial revolution in terms of science and finance. Money was awash in the town as huge industrialists founded groundbreaking industries like the railway and steel manufacture. But it had to be tempered by a political system and municipal services.
“These two groups built the town we are all proud of today. It was their dreams, aspirations and willingness to risk it all that built Middlesbrough’s economic success.
However, the film investigates how the political battle was set against the ills of the Victorian era.
“Prostitution was rife in Middlesbrough amongst poor, powerless women,” explains Jonathan. “Absinthe was prevalent in society and its supposed hallucinogenic effects rocked high society’s moral fibre.
“Also opium was not yet seen as a problem and was often sent to troops as a present from home during the First World War.
“Clairvoyance and music hall were the main source of entertainment. But some people suffered poverty and for many who worked there was a terrible risk of injury. All of this is covered in the film.”
Screened by the Northern Region Film & Television Archive (NRFTA), the film has its premiere at 7pm on Monday September 19 in the state-of-the-art cinema within Teesside University’s Constantine Building on the junction of Borough Road and Albert Road in Middlesbrough.
Extracts from other local footage made for Smiths Dock and Dorman Long will also be screened. To book, call 01642 384022.
‘100 Years’ is part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of the Transporter Bridge, which are supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The celebrations will culminate in a carnival and firework display on Sunday October 16, while the Transporter will be illuminated from early October.