A Brief History of Struggle
Dipo Baruwa-Etti and Calle Fuhr
This Anglo-German collaboration from Paines Plough utilises WhatsApp to send 6 short film clips plus a handful of accompanying audio snippets to subscribers on a daily basis.
Using a cast of undergraduate students from Guildhall, each episode of approximately five minutes features a couple (in one case an individual) sitting on park benches talking earnestly.
The story starts in 1928 in London, where a traditional mother argues with her pre-feminist daughter about the latter’s future.
In Dortmund in 1946, an unrepentant Nazi attempts to persuade his fiancée that their son, soon to arrive, should be named Adolf. Her response is predictably but encouragingly chastening.
The third episode takes us forward to Swinging Sixties London. Somewhat incongruously, a Scottish man is delighted that England has just won the World Cup (in the days when there was only one). The unemployed young man then induces some soul-searching by announcing to his girlfriend that he wants to break up with her and start a band.
In 1987, two depressed German coal miners drink beer from cans on a park bench. One portrays optimism about a new future, while the other can see no hope.
In the wake of 9/11, a troubled young Londoner is practically in shock and shares his pain via a video call or message to his estranged mother. Daniel Adeosun demonstrates the strongest acting in the series, in the its sole monologue.
By January 2020 (and this year will always be defined by a short period of normality before the madness), we join a German mother and daughter celebrating their team's football victory.
They also talk about the schoolteacher single mother's past struggles but also concerns about her daughter's desire to become an actress and the insecure life that this is likely to engender.
The conclusion of their conversation leads to a brief attempt to connect the stories in all six episodes of a series that is stronger on novel technical ambition than in-depth characterisation and plotting.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher