BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Sunday, 28 August 2005, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Road film follows shoe empire
Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid Of The Future
The Bata empire flourished internationally in the 1930s
One of the most unusual road movies ever shot - following a busload of unemployed British shoemakers as they travel across Europe to discover the utopian ideals of their original employer - has been given its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid Of The Future was shot by two directors, Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie, who travelled with the passengers on the coach to the town of Zlin in the Czech Republic, the place where the vast Bata shoe empire began, under Tomas Bata.

The project was commissioned by Thurrock Council, Essex - whose area includes the town of East Tilbury.

In the 1930s, East Tilbury was designed as a copy of Zlin's Bata community - and residents still have a great nostalgia for the "Bata way of life."

Pope told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme that she had been inspired by Tomas Bata's speeches, and had used them heavily in the film.

"He's the visionary of the company, and although he died at a relatively young age in a plane crash, he was the person we got obsessed by,"

"We read his books and speeches on the internet, and read about his utopian vision which resulted in Zlín in the Czech Republic, the destination we visit on the bus."

Utopian ideas

As well as East Tilbury, the passengers came from another English town, Maryport in Cumbria.

The film focuses on their development through the journey.

Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid Of The Future
More than an artistic image, we would say that the bus trip itself was a work of art
Nina Pope
"Obviously in a way it is a quest for find the spirit of Bata, but really, as film-makers, we were more interested in the people themselves on the bus, and how our relationship with them would expand during the journey - and what they would make of going to Zlín," Pope added.

Bata founded his shoe empire in Zlin in 1894. The company took off with the increased demand for military shoes during World War I, and expanded quickly afterwards until in the 1930s it was the world's leading footwear exporter.

But above this, Bata himself was recognised for his social conscience, establishing housing, cinemas and advancement programmes for his employees.

Pope said that she and Guthrie had wanted the passengers to think about these themes, and how they relate to the economic regeneration of the two towns they were from.

"I think Bata's philosophy was incredibly radical, and a lot of his ideas about motivating your workforce, and getting people to live together and work together, are still, I think, quite radical," she added.

"The phrase 'work collectively, live individually' is one of his sayings.

"We use a lot of these phrases in the film. On some levels they are meaningless, but on other levels, when you start to interrogate them within the structure of what he built, they're really fascinating."

Bata was obsessed by large-scale production, and was often called the "Henry Ford of eastern Europe."

He favoured technology as a means of progress, and wanted to make the shoes as cheaply as possible so that the greatest number of people could access them.

Becoming art

Meanwhile, Pope explained that they sought to make the entire experience - and not just what is seen on the cinema screen - a work of art.

One of the ways they did this was to feature in the film themselves. The two directors dressed up in pink outfits, like hostesses taking the passengers on the way.

Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid Of The Future
Pope and Guthrie made themselves 'hostesses' for the journey
"It was quite an intuitive decision as to how to behave in the film - obviously we're directors but we're in front of the camera," she added.

"Looking back, I think now we realise that quite an important part of the success of the journey for all of us was the fact that we weren't behind the camera with the team, we were with the passengers, and we were part of what they were experiencing."

The two were also inspired by Bata's own design legacy, and in places the film mirrors this in the way shots are framed.

"More than an artistic image, we would say that the bus trip itself was a work of art," Pope said.

"A lot of the time on the bus talking to the passengers was what they thought about that.

"The idea of a free holiday, in effect, becoming a work of art."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific