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SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT: Tim Slade, film and television director

Tim Slade is an Australian film and television director, who works in both documentary and drama. He wrote, directed and produced the film The Destruction of Memory which outlines “the war against culture and the battle to save it”. Tim will be speaking about how he made it in a panel discussion after a screening at the Festival of Ideas on 16th October.


Question: When did you decide to make the film and what motivated it?

Tim Slade: When I read the British heritage architect Robert Bevan's book The Destruction of Memory, I was stunned by the fact that this issue was one that had never been ‘visible’ to me. The breadth of cultural destruction, what it signifies, and how it so often disappears in the fog of war and conflict compelled me to make this film.


Q: What were the main challenges you faced making the film?

TS: The main challenge, I would say, was the sporadic attention the issue receives. I began making the film in around 2010, and often people I approached about funding would ask why I was making the film. From around 2012/2013, that perspective has changed because the media has sustained a focus on it, but it always runs the risk of ‘disappearing from view’ yet again.


Q: Why do you think this is an issue which hasn't received much attention in the past?

TS: The acceptance that our identity and our sense of self extends beyond our physical bodies is challenging. Often it seems grotesque to think of a book or a building as being as important as a human being’s life, and indeed the approach we should take, I believe, is to not weigh one against the other but to take both together. We must protect the physical and the cultural, as they are part of a continuum of identity.


Q: Why is destroying cultural artefacts such a devastating act?

TS: It erases history and the record of human achievement, it disorientates the people who draw meaning from the artefact and, as noted above, it attacks the identity of the group of people for whom the artefact is a record of presence in the past, present and future.


Q: What do you hope the film can achieve?

TS: I hope the film can sustain the visibility of the issue and help people in many parts of the world and in many contexts understand the issue in an holistic and deep way.


Q: Have you been happy with the reaction so far?

TS: I’ve been very happy with the reaction, both from ‘lay’ audiences and expert audiences. It has been seen by government and policy officials, who are a crucial audience, as they can effect change on national and international levels.


Q: What more can be done to keep this issue on the agenda?

TS: I think what is crucial is that all of us recognise that we can have a voice if we feel governments and international organisations aren’t doing enough to protect cultural heritage. We can act as individuals or in small groups to lobby, to write letters, to contribute to groups working in the area. Individuals and small groups can be more agile in responding to the issue than governments and courts can be.


Q: Where next for the film?

TS: The film continues to screen in all parts of the world in different contexts, which is wonderful, as the audience is continually growing and therefore thinking about the issue.


Q: What are you working on now?

TS: I do like to move between documentary and drama, so I’m working on several drama scripts! A range of contemporary and historical stories, for television and film, set in the UK and the US. I’m finding them very exciting and rewarding to write, and look forward to bringing them to life.