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Red t’Blue [Jay Martin, UK, 2021]

Regardless of who is talking and which side they’re on, Brexit is a difficult topic to talk about. Just mentioning the word tells you enough about what Jay Martin’s documentary short, Red t’Blue, focuses on – though not quite. Both fascinating and insightful, Red t’Blue accounts how decades worth of disenfranchisement led the constituency of the ex-mining town, Mansfield, to give their seat to the Conservative Party, which until the snap-election of 2017, had never been done before.

Herbie Elton-Rowley’s camerawork moves around a modern-day Mansfield that is mostly vacant, which nicely juxtaposes the archival footage that shows a bustling community and, in other frames, a town full of angry protesters during the UK miners’ strike. The camera is rarely ever still whether it’s zoom-ins or pans. While brief, these glimpses subtly convey how places like Mansfield appear to be forgotten in some of the most memorable promises and warnings included in political campaigns. Jack Bennett’s lovely string arrangements (with help from Belinda Burnard, Rowena Sharps, Laura McClay, and Amy Cisar’s string quartet) underscore the shifting moods from the Labour MP who once held the seat for thirty years.

This documentary short is neutral, never favouring a specific political party. Rather, Richard Lozberg splices interviews with members of both sides, highlighting a shared understanding of the town’s dissatisfaction despite their political differences. These sentiments are echoed by the non-MPs interviewed, the ones who have been at the receiving end of the consequences often discussed. Their perspectives are woven within those of the politicians, a very wise decision from Lozberg and Martin, as it keeps them as part of the conversation rather than at the tail end.

Overall, Red t’Blue is a well-crafted documentary short. It moves at a relatively brisk pace, which may leave some wanting more in between the time jumps to more recent events. In spite of this, the potency of the topic combined with the tight focus is bound to leave viewers interrogating what they think of their political allies and enemies.


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