Friday, May 3, 2019

"Landline" by Matt Houghton

In 2010, Keith Ineson, a chaplain from Cheshire set up a helpline for gay farmers. "Landline" journeys into the world of the people who called.

Landline is a short documentary about the only helpline in the UK for gay farmers. Through a series of recorded telephone conversations and reconstructive visuals, the film uses the helpline as a lens through which to view the experiences of LGBTQ people in the British farming community.

In a world that prizes traditional masculinity and in which ideas of ancestry are fundamental, being gay can be isolating. Suicide rates are extremely high in both young farmers and gay men in particular, and combining these can be a recipe for tragedy. But there are also thriving gay scenes in the most rural of towns, stories of unexpected friendships and relationships, and moments so unlikely that they could only happen in real life. Candid, intimate and shocking, Landline is a snapshot of a group of people bound together by circumstance but so often isolated from each other.

I have always been drawn to ideas surrounding shared experience. Speaking to a good friend Rupert Williams one evening, we got talking about what it was like for him growing up in a farming family as a queer man, and the unique sense of isolation that he felt. As we researched further, we began to understand the extent to which being an LGBTQ farmer was so heavily wrapped up in ideas of identity. Keith Ineson’s helpline seemed a unique lens through which to explore these ideas. Over the course of about a year, we collected stories and experiences from LGBTQ farmers who have at one time or another called the helpline. A series of recorded telephone conversations emerged as the emotional centre of the film.

I work in both documentary and scripted film. In recent years I have become increasingly interested in making films that experiment with story structure and that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. The idea with Landline was to create an active conversation where the stories of a group of individuals compound and react with each other to paint to broader picture. It is an experiential take on the documentary form with the helpline at its centre. It is the honesty and openness of our contributors that made this film possible. To me it is defined by its intimacy but in depicting the very personal, my hope is that it poses questions about much broader ideas surrounding community, family and masculinity.

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