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Our Time On Earth shorts: April's Afterlife Services

Person sits upright in coffin, camera from sideview.
25 Aug 2022
3 min watch

As part of our exhibition Our Time On Earth, we commissioned three short films that explore the climate crisis in different ways. Here, we speak to the team behind the third and final mini-series, April's Afterlife Services, and learn more about the purpose, ambition, and creative process behind their film.

A person sits on a morgue table with their hands in their lap looking at the camera.

April's Afterlife Services: Episode 1

A person stands in a field, next to a corpse covered in tarpaulin.

April's Afterlife Services: Episode 2

Person sits upright in a coffin, with the camera facing them side on.

April's Afterlife Services: Episode 3

Introduce the filmmaker, Thomas Broadhead

"I make films and I make cider. I love both of these worlds, especially combined and in balance with one another. I’ve taken quite a winding path to get here, originally as a scientist then a sailor, and am pulling references from quite an array of experience.

"As a filmmaker, I’m drawn to the human interaction with the natural environment. April’s Afterlife Services is my first scripted film to be made. I’m a big fan of John Cooper Clarke and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I draw writing inspiration from there – something a little surreal yet hidden in plain sight, something with beat and Northernness and matter of fact-ness.

"I grew up in the foothills of the Peak District. I take a lot from that place and its sense of humour."

Introduce the film

"April’s Afterlife Services is a film about life told through our relationship with death. April is a young woman who has somehow found herself in a funeral office. Her job entails daily tasks and challenges most of us could barely get our heads around. Through mortality, and the rituals around it, she sees so much life. And yet, many of the practices and behaviours she witnesses make little or no sense to her.

"The film came about after I read a government report looking at the funeral industry. The report highlighted a lack of transparency, especially at a time when people are vulnerable and will take the path of least resistance."

How does your film respond to the ideas behind Our Time On Earth?

"Environmentalism is part of every single thing we do, both while we are alive and even afterwards. With the earth’s population continuing to grow, the way we treat bodies is as important as ever from an ecological perspective, but it also says a lot about the way society thinks.

"April is an embodiment of change. She is empathetic but obviously flawed. She is trying to shake things up in a sensitive space, but she doesn’t always get it right. The point is that she is curious, and she is trying."

Can you explain the process behind the making of your film?

"Originally, I wrote the script as a longer piece, with a view to making a series exploring death rituals across cultures and societies, told through life in a funeral office. That script was much longer. But with it needing to be whittled down to three episodes for the Barbican, I crunched it into a monologue, condensing the topic as much as I could. On the one hand, these are great parameters within which to work. On the other hand, we certainly lose some of the nuance and April becomes a little more contentious.

"The most difficult part was finding the right location, but having seen it on Killing Eve, we got permission to shoot at Ladywell Mortuary in South London, the perfect backdrop for April’s examination."

What does the filmmaker of the future look like?

"I don’t think we can define that. And I don’t think I’m all that qualified to answer that myself. But I’ll have a go. With everything changing around us so unpredictably, one filmmaker of the future will poke around and ask uncomfortable questions about where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Another will provide hedonistic escapism. Therapy even."

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