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Islington People: Filmmaker who went from raver to director

PUBLISHED: 11:00 09 June 2011

Tom Cordell

Tom Cordell

Archant

Young director is now up for documentary film festival award

»Director Tom Cordell started out filming 1990s raves on a handheld camera – now he is up for a top award at a major documentary film festival next week.

Utopia London, his entry into the Open City London festival, tells the story of some of London’s most striking buildings – including two Islington landmarks – and could land him the prize for best emerging director.

The film begins by focusing on Finsbury Health Centre in Pine Street, Finsbury, and Bevin Court in Cruikshank Street, Islington – both designed by the pioneering modernist Berthold Lubetkin.

Mr Cordell, who lives in Bevin Court, said: “The film looks at what I call the ‘social architecture’ of London from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Low cost

“It uses the buildings as a symbol of the ideas of the society of that time, and the aim to create a fairer, more equal society. The Finsbury Health Centre, for example, was the prototype for the NHS.”

Utopia London grew out of his passion for modernist architecture, which he feels has been vilified over the past 35 years.

It is a first feature-length work for the 33-year-old – whose career started with his days as a teenage raver.

“I used to film drum ‘n’ bass raves when I was about 19,” he said. “Around 1997, digital cameras came onto the market that meant you could suddenly go and film things at a very low cost.

“A producer at the BBC saw one of those videos and offered me some work – that’s how I got my foot in the door.” He went on to make music videos for a host of UK Garage acts, including the Dreem Team, as well as working as a researcher and assistant producer in TV.

“I worked on loads of crime documentaries before this film,” he added.

“I spent a year of my life spending lots and lots of time with murderers and drug dealers. This was a bit of a change of gear.”

n The Open City festival runs from June 16-19 at UCL in Bloomsbury. Utopia London will be screened on Friday, June 17 at 5.30pm.


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