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William Raban
Raban's take on the 'poetic' qualities often ascribed to the medium is interesting.

At the same time as engaging with the conventional definition of the term - an evaluation of the formal qualities of image and sound based on aesthetics - he also approaches structure with a literal use of poetic codes. Rhythm, rhyme, meter, punctuation, resonance are all represented visually and, particularly in these 'documentary' pieces, give an impressionistic feel, a form of visual polemics minus the heavy didactic symbolism. A.L. Rees describes this as 'blending the structural film with the documentary' and this is perhaps at its purest in the 'Under the Tower' trilogy.

The first part 'Sundial' (1992) is a minute long, offering 71 rapid scenes, each showing the Canary Wharf tower at its centre. The camera records the tower from all angles at different times of the day with different foreground material each time. The rapid cutting and certainty of framing create a number of responses. The tower is represented as a three dimensional object that seems to lift from the screen, revealing further Raban's explorations in 'cubist' representations of objects and space. At the same time, the semiotic codes attached to the tower as 'symbol' (it has been described as 'Thatcher's Dick'!) are simply connoted.

The second part, A13 (1994) uses mediated images - through windscreens, mirrors and CCTV cameras - mixed with 'in camera' effects and rhythmic, percussive editing and soundtrack. The area around Canary Wharf and the Limehouse road link are revealed over a day (a 'nod' to the influence of Man with a Movie Camera and Raban's admiration for Vertov). Like Sundial, there is no overt explanation, Raban's rationale being "to see how far it was possible to construct meaning by sound and image alone".

In Island Race (1996) the focus shifts towards people. Margaret Dickinson has noted, "The world explored is one of public space and public events". Raban turns the camera eye on local politics and the racial tensions in the Isle of Dogs that were becoming more palpable during the course of the filming. Footage of local elections (the BNP had just won a bye-election), scenes from a recent anti fascist march, the London Marathon, shots of Ronnie Kray's funeral, are intercut with images of racist graffiti and celebrations of 'Empire' in the form of VE day street party celebrations. The film presents a palette of images without explanation or other usual documentary conventions imposed on them. Raban follows events as they happen rather than forcing a structure through editing. The viewer is left to ask questions and construct meanings relating to nationalism, community and identity from the ambiguity.

Still from Island Race by William Raban, 1996
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