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Kötting, Andrew (1958-)

Director, Writer, Performer

Main image of Kötting, Andrew (1958-)

Andrew Kötting was born on 16 December 1958, one of five children of a middle-class family, in Farnborough, Kent. His father, like his German-born grandfather, sold belts and buckles. As a child he "spent hours off ground in trees or tending rhubarb". He studied art at the Slade School of Art, where he found an old 16mm camera and along with a friend, Ben Woolford, began using it to capture his outdoor performance pieces. One of his first attempts at filmmaking, according to a Premiere profile, "involved inserting iron filings in the shape of religious icons into his penis and then drawing them out again". For his degree film, a short called Klipperty Klop (1986), Kötting ran round and round a Gloucestershire field pretending to ride a horse.

Over the next ten years, Kötting directed a number of experimental shorts, often produced via the London Film-Makers Co-op. The best received were Hoi Polloi (1990), and Smart Alek (1993) - the latter being "an attempt to rework some of my darker childhood memories". He used these shorts to experiment with format, texture and sound to "transport an audience to a place cinematically where possibly they've never been before". "I like to sculpt with the sound in the same way I like to sculpt with the picture and the ideas," he explains. "The story may change just to accommodate a sound."

Kötting's first feature-length movie was Gallivant (1996). A quirky, highly idiosyncratic documentary, it records a journey the director took clockwise around the coast of Britain accompanied by his 85-year-old grandmother, Gladys, and his seven-year-old daughter Eden, who suffers from an incurable condition that impedes her speech. The growing closeness between these two and the sense of impending mortality give the film its emotional underpinning, so that Kötting's celebration of sheer human daffiness never descends into whimsy. In the course of his trip he meets, and blithely indulges, a fine gallery of amiable eccentrics - himself not least. The flavour is rather as though a film by Humphrey Jennings had been remade by Richard Lester, with occasional input from John Betjeman and Spike Milligan. Gallivant was premiered to great acclaim at the Edinburgh Film Festival, where it won the Channel 4 Best New Director prize.

The harsher, grittier side of Kötting's work emerged in his second feature, This Filthy Earth (2001). Loosely adapted from Zola's novel La Terre, the film is set in a rural community somewhere and sometime in the north of England. The melodramatic plot matters far less than the brutal, phantasmagoric atmosphere, a timeless nightmare vision of blood and shit and all-engulfing mud. Kötting summed up his aim as "trying to show the landscape in its full beauty and brutality". Critical reaction was generally respectful but stunned. Since then he has completed Mapping Perception (2002), a short 'science, film and art project' inspired by his daughter Eden. Kötting still sees himself as essentially a performance artist. "Even to this day," he says, "I wouldn't think of myself as a feature film-maker. I'm just making longer pieces of work."

Calhoun, David, 'Britain as you've never seen it before', Observer (Review section), 14 Oct. 2000, pp. 8-9
Calhoun, Dave, 'Up to his neck in mud and blood', Independent on Sunday (Culture section), 8 Dec. 2000, p. 2
Kötting, Andrew, 'It's a Dirty Job', Guardian (Section 2), 2 Nov. 2001, pp. 10-11
Matheou, Demetrios, 'Profile, Andrew Kötting', Premiere, Oct. 1997, p. 13

Philip Kemp, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Gallivant (1996)Gallivant (1996)

Typically idiosyncratic voyage round Britain with Andrew Kötting and family

Thumbnail image of Là Bas (1994)Là Bas (1994)

A French couple have extraordinary encounters in Bexhill-on-Sea

Thumbnail image of Smart Alek (1993)Smart Alek (1993)

A family goes on its summer holiday and finds its world disintegrating

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