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In Fading Light (1989)

Courtesy of Amber Films

Main image of In Fading Light (1989)
16mm, colour, 107 mins
Production CompaniesAmber Films, Channel Four
With support ofNorthern Arts
 Amber Production Team

Cast: Joanna Ripley (Karen Olsen); Dave Hill (Alfie Olsen); Sammy Johnson (Dandy Mac); Brian Hogg (Micky Molloy); Amber Styles (Betty); Mo Harrold (Irene); Joe Caffrey (Yopper)

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A young woman's return after many years away causes upheavals in a small North Shields fishing community.

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In Fading Light was Amber's feature film follow-up to the well-received Seacoal (1985), and features a number of Amber's growing company of regular performers, such as Amber Styles, Ray Stubbs and Brian Hogg. Again, the filmmakers worked closely over a two-year period with the local fishing community in North Shields, even to the extent of buying a boat (which they subsequently sold at a profit!) to use in the film and sending the cast on fishing trips to learn to do the job properly.

The script was written by local writer Tom Hadaway, a retired fishmonger. However, while the slightness of the narrative in the earlier film enabled it to blend comfortably, the more substantial narrative of In Fading Light sits more uneasily with the improvised and documentary material. Amber, it seems, was still finding its feet with more conventional narrative material.

Nevertheless, the film remains an accomplished one and in typical fashion pulls none of its punches. Life in the depressed fishing community is hard, and this is no rosy picture of good-hearted working-class people pulling together in the face of adversity - there are the rivalries, jealousies and suspicions one would expect to find anywhere. Political comment on the plight of the traditional fishing industry is introduced subtly and largely visually, as in the catch of the dead seal, and the sight of large factory trawler in the background, dwarfing the 'Sally' as she sails back to port following her failed expedition. Again characteristically, the film grants the audience the space to draw its own conclusions - are we to admire the resilience of Alfie and Dandy Mac as they sign on another boat? Are Mickey and Karen leaving in hope or despair? The choice is ours, and perhaps we feel a little of all three.

Martin Hunt

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Video Clips
1. Making an impression (4:10)
2. The catch (3:05)
3. 'What are we doing to the sea?' (3:21)
Amber Collective (1969-)
Channel 4 Films/Film on Four/FilmFour
Amber Films
Channel 4 and Film
Female Protagonists