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  • Writer's pictureEugene

Mighty Penguins + The Nettle Dress

An unusual but uplifting evening for us with the double bill of Mighty Penguins and The Nettle Dress, two shorter independent British films. Mighty Penguins tells the story of a Brentford football team of youngsters, all who have Down’s Syndrome. Their empathetic coach and founder, ex professional footballer Allan Cockram, shares how it all began.  The Nettle Dress was a meditative film about a textile artist’s seven-year nettle weaving project, as he creates a dress to celebrate his wife’s memory. 


Both films were about how we deal with grief, create purpose in our lives and how we can transform our world.  Our short film about Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery, using gold to enhance the cracks, mirrored this theme.


The audience had many new faces, with younger people in evidence as well. We welcomed several textile artists and weavers.  One attendee had last come to Rusthall Community Cinema in its first year and was really delighted at how we had developed.


I presented some dance films I had made with my ex-pupils with special needs. Together we had won national awards for our work and it is always a joy to share the gifts and talents of those amazing young people.  I was touched by several people who came up to me to share their family stories about disability. I was hugged a good few times.


We had a small but enthusiastic discussion group. We felt Mighty Penguins was a distinctive documentary. The young people had no inhibitions and so had a dialogue throughout with the production team. The cameraman had a little song made up about him by the charming, warm-hearted Katherine (Special K) and she passed him a chocolate cake.  Other scenes show members of the team holding the boom mic.


The director, Louis Myles, has an uncle with Down’s. Comfort in the world of disability really shone through this film. We did hope that the exuberant coach looked after his own well-being, though, he was generating so much excitement and energy and was so bonded to his team. Our discussion included neurodivergent people and we felt for him.


We weren’t quite so sure about The Nettle Dress. The focus was so solidly on Allan Brown’s journey through bereavement, but we wondered how his four children had coped.  However, we reflected that probably they didn’t want that media attention. They appeared positive and grounded on their annual commemorative ‘Mumness Day’.


One of us had a weaving tradition in their heritage and we talked about women’s role in spinning.  We also highlighted the way the documentary had moved from its ‘hedgerow couture’ emphasis in its crowdfunding days to the bereavement and healing theme.  Was the film a tad repetitive and too long?   We raised these concerns even though we appreciated its calm, patience and commitment.



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