Film and Documentary

When you build a 500m deep tunnel, fill it with nuclear waste then seal it up forever, how do you warn future generations that there lies high-level radioactive waste which is almost certainly catastrophically toxic to humans and the environment if disturbed? This documentary looks at the way planners at the Onkalo nuclear waste repository in Finland are attempting to warn humanity 1000 years down the line about the existence of the facility.

Hidden City “offers up a convincing vision of a secret London while pushing the narrative into the background”. As the protagonists search for a collection of wartime archive films they discover another London—a London of underground bunkers and warrens of subterranean tunnels. What makes the film so interesting is that it uses several real slabs of under-London history as filming locations, including the unused Kingsway Tramway Subway and Goodge Street Deep Level Shelter.

Journalist Mark Thomas goes on a quest to find out why certain parts of the UK do not appear on maps. His search takes him to sites like an underground aviation fuel pipeline and the then-classified Burlington Bunker.

This documentary explores the City of London Corporation’s failed plan to create a network of elevated walkways which would limit the interaction between pedestrians and traffic. The scheme was borne out of 1960s Modernist utopian planning but abandoned before completion in the 1980s. The film explores the history and theoretical grounding behind the plans and illustrates some of the ways the surviving walkways are used today.

Geoff Marshall of Londonist travels the entire tube network looking for interesting vestiges of the past. The series is split into 18 short videos which each covers one part of the network.

A lesser-known Adam Curtis documentary about the move towards industrialised methods of constructing housing in the 1960s which resulted in “system built” blocks of flats like Ronan Point. These are the ominous dreary-looking functionalist tower blocks which are quickly vanishing thanks to periodic demolition around the United Kingdom.

The film serves as a cautionary tale for what happens when construction companies are allowed to take on the role of architect and planner, and provides an interesting snapshot of the 1980s backlash to the council schemes of the 60s and 70s.

This is John Rogers’s fantastic documentary on Nick Papadimitriou, the father of deep topography. It follows Papadimitriou on his long walks around Middlesex and through interviews with Iain Sinclair and Will Self looks at the founding of deep topography as a reaction against the mutated lazy psychogeography of the 1990s-2000s.

It’s about getting a very very dangerous balance between finding the overlooked and showing it to the other people who have an eye for the overlooked and not making the overlooked into something that is gazed at, you know, like people looking through the bars of a monkey house or something
– Nick Papadimitriou

The sort of place Nick reveres […] are places that feel left behind by the passage of history.
– Will Self

The appeal of the edgeland is that it’s between official territories.
– Iain Sinclair

Rogers has lots of videos documenting the deep topography movement in London on his Youtube channel which are all worth watching.