This Side of the Pond – May 11

By Sarah Pridgeon

The real Dorset – much more picturesque than a kebab, I think we can agree.
The real Dorset – much more picturesque than a kebab, I think we can agree.

I feel that residents of the Sundance-in-which-the-movie-festival-isn’t can relate to my frustration that, aside from the popular Broadchurch, which was filmed just down the road from my house, my home county of Dorset has been generally used and abused by the silver screen.

We turn up in movies quite often, but it’s not like you’d notice unless you’re both a fearless aficionado of British cinema and in possession of an eagle eye. Dorset often serves as a backdrop, but seldom does a character acknowledge his or her location and there aren’t many scenic shots to feast your eyes on.

When you don’t have a Mountain Men to rely on as you journey across the oceans, it’s harder to explain where you came from. I can gesticulate as wildly as the next foreigner, but it’s tough to paint a picture of rolling fields and soft sand with just two hands.

This sad fact was temporarily scrubbed from the history books last week when a movie filmed in Bournemouth, with actual actors and an actual story and all those other important elements that make an actual film, was released to the general public.

For once, it’s not even about cows and green grass and ladies wearing bonnets. On the other hand, my excitement was quashed on discovering that it’s not a stellar illustration of the picturesque nature of my home town.

This is because it is both a horror movie and set in a kebab shop, neither of which shine a positive light over beach life on the south coast. Before I move on, I realize I will now need to explain what a kebab shop is.

Picture yourself, if you will, as a twenty-something Brit during a night on the town with your friends. It’s getting late. Alcohol has been imbibed, dance floors have been stomped over and eyelids are beginning to close all by themselves.

And yet, before you stagger home to bed, you must seek out something solid to settle your stomach. In that moment, no matter how healthy your usual diet, your first choice is not going to be a salad or a smoothie.

No, in Britain, it’s going to be a doner kebab. This Turkish dish involves slices of meat cooked slowly on an upright spit then stuffed to overflowing in pita bread pockets with your choice of sauce and – if you’re determined to pretend you’re not snarfing down a mountain of grease – a sprinkling of lettuce.

They are delicious, but naughty – a dirty little edible secret for the tipsy. It’s also usually the only food that is both available in the early hours of the morning and ready to be consumed in a matter of seconds.

The downside of this clever marketing ploy is explored in great detail in the movie. K-Shop tells the tale of a Turkish immigrant’s son who is understandably troubled by his father’s murder and takes out his rage on drunken, abusive customers in grotesque style.

To clarify, it seems to be based on the story of Sweeney Todd. As it had to be made on a miniscule budget, I am ashamed to say that the scenes of drunken chaos that cause the main character to lose his cool are real footage from Bournemouth in the evenings.

Not that I can claim to have been much better behaved in my youthful days of dubious decisions. When you live in a vacation town, there are plenty of bad choices to tempt you.

Even so, I think I will refrain from suggesting anyone put this on their movie rental list for the sake of viewing my home in all its glory. It may be outperforming Star Wars on our movie rental service, but it’s not a side of Bournemouth that evokes great pride.

Instead, I will recommend Broadchurch for your viewing pleasure as it does feature stretches of beach that I am very familiar with and the general ambience of the area. The recent adaption of Far From the Madding Crowd was also filmed in Dorset, while you’ll see dramatic storms hit the harbor wall of Lyme Regis, a favorite childhood haunt, in The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The Boat that Rocked was filmed in Portland Harbor, but you really only see the sea in that movie and, frankly, it could be a body of water from anywhere on the planet. Lyme Regis also turns up in both adaptions of Persuasion, although that story is not exactly a glimpse at modern Dorset life.

One of the only movies on the list that is neither a period drama nor relatively unknown outside Britain is World War Z. There’s a moment where you’ll see Brad Pitt zooming about on a dinghy and landing on a pebbled beach to find his family; the same pebbled beach, in Lyme Regis, where I once toddled about looking for fossils.

Pitt came back the next year to sit behind the wheel of a tank in Bovington, where the tank museum is located, to prepare for Fury. Sadly, he didn’t take the tank with him onto the set.

The other movie is Pirates of the Caribbean, where the stone arch reaching out into the water known as Durdle Door turns up for a second or two. As usual, nobody points to it or mentions it’s in Dorset. Still, I suppose I should at least be grateful that neither features a murderous kebab or drunken teenagers stumbling through the streets.