Grace Dent on TV: After the X Factor, I found a strange, beautiful film that made all those pop crises just fade away

From the Sea to the Land Beyond: Britain's Coast on Film, BBC4

I chanced upon the very beautiful, mesmerising From the Sea to the Land Beyond: Britain's Coast on Film, last Sunday evening during the regular five-minute channel flicking free-for-all post-ITV1's The X Factor; a show I'm resolutely not watching this year, while still watching, ironically.

Last Sunday, the nation, playing out on Twitter, was in a state of boggle-eyed plutonium grade umbrage over the voting off of Ella Henderson who has been cited many times as a global superstar-in-waiting. In fact, Ella is a moderately talented, highly affable 16-year-old who can clank her way through "Believe" by Cher with most of the notes in the right ballpark. If I'd been on a 10-night P&O cruise around northern Europe and Ella had appeared on a slightly raised area in the cabaret theatre, just after I'd had my photo taken being starstruck with the ship's captain, and she had belted out "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, I'd probably agree Ellie had "a pleasant voice".

Yet due to the non-unique way we enjoy light entertainment in Britain, Ella's dismissal from The X Factor had whipped the nation up into a frenzy about injustice. At that moment, over on Sky News, running concurrently, Israel and Gaza were in the throes of horror, but us human beings don't really liked to be reminded of the complexity of dozens of dead children when we can be furious on behalf of one very loved, healthy child getting the chance to go home.

Tradition says that the X Factor saga will proceed in this manner becoming ever more heart-tampering, tear-purging, painful and joyous until the moment the titles roll on the 9 December climax when suddenly, it's done. Over. The scales fall from the nation's eyes, we humans realise we don't care about these contestants at all. If anything, we feel grubby, manipulated and used, In fact, we would step over Christopher Maloney or Union J in our front drives without checking for vital signs. I pondered all of this as I watched From the Sea to the Land Beyond, an hour-long narration of archive clips of us everyday British islanders and our relationship with the coastline. A world pre-X Factor, pre-text votes, pre-rolling news, pre-the quest for fame, pre-judging panels and an exciting chance to win a VIP pool cabana with Olly Murs.

Not strictly a documentary, in fact, From the Sea to the Land Beyond was billed as "a meditation", which might sound pretentious, but after 10 minutes of staring at the camera lavishing on fishwives outside cottages sewing nets or boho fillies dancing on the beach or surreal May Day parades in foliage-covered carriages, gentlemen swimming in top hats, a multitude of happy and weary faces from yesteryear, it was impossible not be pondersome. This put me in mind of Godfrey Reggio's 1982 head-bending classic Koyaanisqatsi but focusing on British coastal splendour, how we were, how we still are all gloriously cosseted with a British Sea Power score. Without a jot of narration or captioning, it's left for the viewer to simply watch the footage and root around in the dark, often neglected, corners of one's brain to make sense of what's going on. Why is that little girl dancing on cast-iron girders 100 feet up? This must be the Thirties, surely? Why is no one stopping her? Who is that girl in the cart being whisked through the streets? A carnival queen? And why all this public dancing? When did we stop dancing in the streets on holidays? Is this May Day, Easter or a happy time we once celebrated then forgot about or cancelled. At times, feelings of loss washed over me like waves on Silloth beach, where I spent many long Sundays in the Seventies on "nice runs-out in the car" with my gran and granddad. A glass bottle of Barr's Cream Soda and a reclaimed ice-cream box full of egg and salad cream on Sunblest bread in the back of a Maxi car listening to tales of stuff that went on in Silloth in bygone times. Blimey, I was bored. I was missing the start of the charts on Radio 1.

Now it's 2012, it's Sunday night and I'm delivered archive footage of my gran's peer group, out on the razz, best hats and frocks on to entrance the boys, promenading in pairs linking arms, crowds gathering to watch pier-side entertainers or local show-offs, pretty girls kissing handsome lads who will later be taken by war. The footage is continuously confusing and for me the only person who can offer a full and frank is my grandparents, yet they have long since gone. The cream soda supply has dried up, the car has been scrapped, their house was sold and modernised, my sandwiches now come from Pret. I sit with my soda watching seagulls and ship builders and lifeboat displays as British Sea Power soothe and sadden me in turn. This documentary offered only questions and no answers, a chance to think, and perhaps only one clear message. Our time here is limited. Get out more and enjoy the sea breeze. The past is a different country. We ate ice-creams differently there.

This week Grace watched...


Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game