The British film-maker Penny Woolcock has made an unusual choice of the place to serve as the "promised land" in her next film project. In fact, she says: "Nobody's done anything as deliriously mad before!" On Saturday, the usually sedate seaside town of Margate will be transformed into a bustling film set for her new venture, The Margate Exodus, based on the Old Testament book.
Woolcock was inspired by "the idea of people being exiled in their own country - wasted somehow - and asylum-seekers looking for the promised land". And Margate is to embody such a promised land.
The ambitious project, produced by Artangel, brings together work by Woolcock, the sculptor Antony Gormley and the musicians Rufus Wainwright, Brian Eno and Imogen Heap. But Woolcock was determined that the resulting film, for Channel 4, would involve people from all walks of life. "We wanted to go to the housing estates and get people involved, otherwise they exclude themselves. They think, 'Well, they won't want me.'" How wrong they were. The actor playing Moses has been out of Rada for a year and is trained for such projects, yet he works alongside a "fabulously charismatic" MC from Ramsgate, who plays Aaron.
"Our extras and cast are much more vivid than if we just had extras from an agency," Woolcock says. "One of the forces behind the film was to channel the talent and enthusiasm that is here. We cast the people who are right for the part."
And anyone can go to Margate and watch it all happen. Not only will you be able to witness Pharoah Mann declare: "I'm going to change the world"; you can also watch the Plague Songs being performed by local musicians all day.
Disagreeing with the character Pharoah Mann, Woolcock maintains: "I don't think you can change the world - absolutely not - but you can try to reflect the world and work in a way where you're not just parachuting in and parachuting out."
30 September (020-7713 1400; www.artangel.org.uk)Reuse content