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Morris dancing in the movies
A film about one man's struggle to modernise Morris dancing has been partly shot in Dorset - and after an independent tour of cinemas around the south west, the film could be closer to getting a national distribution deal.
A new comedy film, Morris: A Life With Bells On, following the fortunes of a Morris dancing team called Millsham Morris and its leader, caused a stir on its venue-by-venue tour of the south west, including cinemas and village halls across Dorset, that the film has come to the attention of the world's media.
Chaz Oldham, producer, writer and actor in the film says: "The regional screenings we did with Moviola were extraordinary. We hoped we'd get some publicity but we had no idea how popular the film would be. We were getting 120,000 hits on the website.
Chaz Oldham, Naomie Harris
"And you know you've got a good story when the Sydney Morning Telegraph newspaper gets in touch with you."
Chaz says the film has also featured on America's CBS news, in Time magazine, and he's about to take it to the Seattle Film Festival.
The rural cinema tour was arranged by Dorset Film Touring. Their Moviola initiative aims to take cinema out to rural areas, through a network of small villages and community halls.
Chaz says: "[The tour] really did the trick and helped take it to a wider audience."
Bournemouth doubling for California
And the documentary-style comedy was partially filmed here in Dorset - scenes were shot in Poole, Wimborne - and Bournemouth beach even doubled for California.
In the fictional plot, Derecq Twist is the leader of the Morris dancing team, and as the film begins he's preparing to perform the ultimate Morris dance called the Threeple Hammer Damson, a long-held ambition.
But Derecq is also a visionary - he's pioneering a new form of Morris dance, Extreme Morris.
This new, free-form style of dancing ruffles the feathers of the traditional Morris Circle.
The Circle warns Derecq and his team that they're to stop with the Extreme Morris - or he'll be expelled from the Circle and prevented from dancing the Threeple Hammer Damson.
Tubs of Lard for My Old Lady
Chaz Oldham describes the film as "a gentle, funny film with no swearing, no nudity and no violence - although some of the dances do get a bit rough at times."
Chaz also acted in the film, and got stuck into the dancing - including one dance that's regarded as a real-life Dorset Morris dancing classic, Tubs of Lard for My Old Lady.
Says Chaz: "Morris dancing is not just keep fit. It nearly killed me a few times - there were a few cracked knuckles and chipped teeth!"
The film, focusing as it does on Morris dancing, received a boost following reports that the quirky, traditional dancing style was dying out, with less people taking part.
But Chaz has found that people who have seen the movie have really enjoyed it, and he's hoping that the film will receive the distribution deal he feels it deserves - people can help by signing the online petition at the film's website.
He says: "In movie parlance we are 'still talking to a number of people', and trying to get it out on national release.
"We're at that critical juncture where hopefully in the next few weeks we'll have a distribution deal so I would ask people [who want to see the film] to be patient as you can be.
"All you have to do is mention the words 'Morris dancing' and watch the reaction - it should be the hit it deserves to be, and the people in the south west have got right behind it.
"And it's a tribute to them that we managed to get the film registered on the radar of the major film distributors."
More information on film can be found on the Morris movie website:
last updated: 05/05/2009 at 14:54
Have Your Say
Have you been Morris dancing? Have you seen this film? What did you think?
Mrs S Lewington