Secret City: Uncovering London’s hidden history
Yesterday the Frontline Club in London screened Secret City , the acclaimed investigative film written by Lee Salter and directed by Michael Chanan. The documentary explores the power wielded by the City of London Corporation and reveals its relationship to London’s position at the centre of global finance, and the economic crisis.
Featuring interviews with the likes of Lord Maurice Glasman, historian Robin Blackburn and Prof Doreen Massey from the Open University, as well as city workers and Occupy London protestors, Secret City seeks to uncover the hidden history of the institutions at the heart of the financial crisis in the UK.
The film is shot over the eerie tune of children singing ‘The bells of Old Bailey’ (Oranges and Lemons), and the backing music sets an unnerving tone that is in keeping with the message of the film – that the City of London has a secretive and closely guarded history.
Weaving archived footage, maps and stills to help bring it to life, the full length documentary examines the role that the City of London Corporation has to play in promoting the interests of the financial district and in influencing economic policy.
Author and presenter of Secret City, Lee Salter, says that while London has always been a multicultural, diverse city, in contrast the City of London has “remained a monoculture, built around the interests of finance capital, and those who are in charge of [the] economic system”.
Conjuring up undertones of secrecy and conspiracy, the film explores this concept, revealing how the City is run like an “old boy’s network”, where a select few influence the markets at secretive meetings and exchanges, away from the public eye and above the order of public scrutiny.
Occupy London tour guide Liam Tailor guides the viewer through the city of London as the film explores how, both geographically and politically, the city is distinct from the rest of London.
Describing it as a “state within a state”, the film documents how its history has been shaped by ancient rules that are at odds with modern day values of democracy and transparency.
Prof Doreen Massey describes the City as a ‘upas tree’, under which nothing else can grow. The financial district is “not a golden goose”, she says, but rather a tree under which nothing else can grow.
Directed by: Michael Chanan
Written by: Lee Salter
Tagged in: documentary, Frontline Club, london, secret city
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