Matthew R. Ford
Matthew R. Ford
"I do feel like, generally, you're not taken seriously enough as a creative if you're from Birmingham." It's interesting when you're watching a film that's somewhat lamenting the fact that there's not enough representation of a specific location on screen - it makes you reflect on how many times your hometown has made it into film & television by default. While this documentary "City On Screen" dives into the story of Birmingham and the role it has played, I had to at least acknowledge the fact that even this documentary's existence - likely proves that this city in the UK has a leg up on a TON of places out there around the world. Ain't no one inclined to make a movie about Port Coquitlam, where I came from, I can promise you that. So to me, this tributary film that toasts and celebrates the influence of Birmingham seemed to recognize something pretty special that the majority of us living outside of major cities will never really experience. Activity. Promise. Potential. A reason to love a location that extends beyond simply being where you come from, has history and made a genuine contribution.
Writer/Director Matthew R. Ford has done an excellent job in depicting the importance of Birmingham and the essential role it has played in the lives of so many within the entertainment industry. I get where he's coming from – there's a huge difference between living in England's second-largest city and growing up in Port Coquitlam…a town that no one would even know about were it not for having once harbored Canada's most notorious serial killer. There are a plethora of positive reasons to celebrate the history of a city like Birmingham, and Ford does an exceptional job of finding all kinds of people from his local scene to help tell its true story. The level of passion that these people you'll see have for the city should pretty much tell you everything you'll need to know – Birmingham isn't just another place to live; it has its own accent, its own culture, its own character…and Ford should be proud of how he's shown all that to us in "City On Screen." However, Ford's film isn't merely pandering to us for our attention; it's supplying us with a wealth of reasons as to why Birmingham truly deserves its rightful place within cinematic history.
It's also really great to learn things like how a place can be so ultimately influential and yet struggle to get the credit that it's due. In the context of this particular film, I think a lot of people would be shocked to learn that a show as massive as "Peaky Blinders" - that attributes so much of its story to Birmingham isn't actually shot on location! How crazy is that, right? Or look at how "City On Screen" points out the inherent flaws in the funding supplied by something like CreativeUK, which you'd assume was there to help things grow until you get into the details and realize the last thing they ever want to do is take risks. How about the fact that Odeon Cinema - you've heard of this place, yes? This massive chain's story began in Birmingham, which "City On Screen" will go on to explain. There are so many shocking revelations of the contributions that Birmingham has made throughout the years that it is truly mind-blowing. Matthew's city has been an integral part of so much of what we've experienced, collectively, all around the world – to think that it hasn't been recognized more is practically criminal. I mean…heck…even the surrounding areas of Birmingham once housed a man named J.R.R. Tolkien – ever heard of that guy? Actually…let me rephrase that for you…have you ever heard of someone who hasn't?
While it's fair to say that there are many aspects of "City On Screen" that get pretty technical and would be understood most by those out there on the inside of the entertainment industry, I think that if you're at all like myself, and really enjoy the history behind cinema and the shows we love, you'll definitely dig what Matthew R. Ford has put together here. He's achieved the paramount goal of a documentary, which is really to get a whole lot of information across, but in an entertaining way that doesn't have our eyes glossing over or our hands reaching for our phones. He's brought in a whole bunch of great clips to support his points, a multitude of strong voices to represent Birmingham with passion, and he's spliced a lot of this information in a really clever way that'll have a bunch of people carrying on the story like a conversation happening in real-time. I think Ford has done a superb job in shining the spotlight on a crucial location in the UK and shown us the links of its roots that prove it has always been a major part of cinematic history. For what it's worth, given the fact they've got modern-day giants like BBC, Netflix, Amazon, Apple & more coming through to do business on the regular, and that Birmingham continues to thrive in assisting the entertainment industry to this very day…I feel like it'll get the credit it is due and deserved eventually - and that "City On Screen" plays a significant role in directing our attention to the many accomplishments of its location & its people. Despite all of what Birmingham has done already and all that it has achieved, as Ford explains, "it risks being a city that may never ever really fulfill its potential" in this modern world we're living in - unless it continues to hustle, work for everything that comes its way, and be recognized for the many ways it has played an essential role in what we all watch.
Thanks to films like this, and people like Matthew R. Ford, I have the feeling that Birmingham will be just fine and go on to secure the legacy it deserves. I know I've got a much bigger appreciation for the city based on everything I've seen in this film, and I feel like Ford has done a wonderful job in educating us all on the monumental contributions that Birmingham has made to the entertainment that we enjoy all over the world. Four stars out of five on this film from me. It's historical, entertaining, engaging, and informative; the love for Birmingham in "City On Screen" is extremely enticing to watch and learn from. Well done.