Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions, and workplace automation further weakens bonds between people. As the population ages, as more people live alone, people of all ages are at risk from diseases brought on by loneliness and in need of care.
'The Horse' is a 15 minute fiction-documentary hybrid film about Will, a young, Polish poet who takes a new job as a care worker for elders in London. Under-trained and underpaid, Will speeds from home to home on his bicycle, entering hidden worlds to administer care to a delicate but dynamic assortment of elderly men. Spending long, lonely days with an overbearing phone app that monitors his efficiency, he endeavours to make his elderly “service users” his friends. But the job's punishing demands on Will’s time erode his attention, and in a moment of distraction, he makes a dangerous mistake.
Lotje's team are her production company Lief, EP Anthony Austin, producer Charlie Falconer and writer S J Fowler, with poetry by Wojciech Bonowicz. We have been working on this project for over a year for free, because we all have feelings of fondness and heartbreak when we think about our elderly relatives, and consequently, we love this project from the bottom of our hearts.
We decided to use a hybrid approach, combining documentary and scripted scenes, to create a raw, impactful and original film that will help us wake up from the apathetic slumber surrounding the crisis of loneliness, and get us thinking about the value of social care, mortality, resilience, compassion - ALL the good stuff.
Will is played by a Polish actor, while his elderly “service users” Derrick, Mr. Smart, Roger, Mr. Mandalia, Mr. Ezekiel, and Alf are playing themselves - their real lives captured as semi-improvised documentary film to optimise authenticity, and allow an audience to witness their fragile mortality, intertwined with unexpected glimpses of humour and resilience.
Director Lotje Sodderland is best known for her Netflix hit documentary My Beautiful Broken Brain (Executive Produced by David Lynch).
"After surviving a haemorrhagic stroke, I had the opportunity to experience what it feels like to lose my self and my independence, in a care system that didn’t have the resources to help me find my way through the fog of fragility. I was fortunate enough to return with an (albeit new) self and augmented independence, and in that new dimension I met Pierre, a man who became a care worker himself. His stories opened my mind to the impossible challenges of a burgeoning industry that depends on an incongruous blend of technology and isolation. Care workers are increasingly instructed by their employers to use apps on their smartphones to micro-manage their time and their tasks, from cleaning to drug administration.
It was the collision of these two worlds that drove me to make 'The Horse'. The robotisation of work means that in many industries people find themselves working alongside machines in order to respond to growing demands for efficiency. But what if the job by its very nature requires time, patience, and humanity? Advances in science and technology are lengthening and saving millions of lives, meaning there is a growing population of dependent people who need help. But time, patience and compassion are increasingly elusive.
Having lived the experience, I feel a strong responsibility to tell this story that delves into the intimacy and privacy of people dependent on care, with dignity across the spectrum. As a filmmaker, I want to do justice to the stories of pain and beauty, represented by the characters in 'The Horse'." LOTJE SODDERLAND
Kickstarter is the perfect vehicle for us to share this important story with the world, because, in the words of one of the film's stars Alf (92), "We might die next week!".
We don't have time for lengthy funding applications. We need to get shooting pronto!
By supporting this Kickstarter, you will be instrumental in the shooting and social impact of this film. The £10,000 goal will help cover the cost of production as we anticipate to shoot over eight days in London this coming Autumn. We secretly hope to raise even more funding for our Post Production and Distribution to help create maximum impact - fast.
Kickstarter is all or nothing, meaning that if we don’t reach our goal then we will receive nothing.
MEET SOME OF THE CAST
Mr. Mandalia is 95, and ran away from his home in India when he was a teenager, ending up in Lahore where he began his career as a tailor. There, he met his wife and they moved to Uganda where Mr. Mandalia ran a successful sewing business and had two daughters. In 1970, the family were forced to flee the country under Idi Amin’s rule and ended up in London with nothing but a five-pound note and a sewing machine. He got a job sewing on Petticoat Lane and re-built his life. Mr. Mandalia’s wife died of breast cancer soon after. When his girls left home to attend university, he moved into a flat by himself. All his siblings have since passed away and he feels like he is ready to join them, along with his beloved wife.
Mr. Smart has been blind for twenty years, and lives alone, spending his days listening to a Biblical radio station. He arrived from Trinidad in 1960 and abandoned his dream of joining the army to work as a bus driver instead. His daughters live in America and his wife left him many years ago.
Roger has enjoyed a rich life of adventures, working in the music industry. Today, he is almost rendered immobile due to Parkinson’s disease, but feels grateful he can travel into the world of his memories.
Alf, 92, recently lost his beloved wife Ellen after caring for her as she deteriorated following a dementia diagnosis some years ago. A native of London’s East End, Alf spends his days completing puzzles as he struggles to make sense of this new, solitary life without Ellen.
The poetry emanating from Will’s inner voice is the work of contemporary Polish writer Wojciech Bonowicz, whose oeuvre is deeply rooted in the universal experiences of suffering, death, the search for meaning, and the socio-political sphere. Bonowicz’s words reflect the tension of Will’s outer reality as an immigrant worker trying to build human connections, with glimpses of his internal reality through his poems.
We have carefully selected rewards to go with your funding and support of the film. We'll keep everybody updated of our and the elderly progress and really hope we inspire to help combat loneliness as well as impact those in power to change how we value care and our ageing population.
Everyone involved in this film is entirely devoted to the telling of this story, because we feel the subject-matter is so gravely underexposed.
Join in our passion project and pledge to help get this film made!
Thank you so much, Lotje & her team.
Lotje Sodderland is a writer and filmmaker. Lotje co-directed MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN, which is her own journey into language and perception, following her miraculous survival and recovery from an inter cerebral haemorrhage. Lotje has been nominated for an Emmy Award, as well as receiving awards from Wellcome Trust, IDFA Amsterdam and Ahvaz International Science Film Festival. She has been commissioned by Channel 4, Netflix, and The Guardian.
Steven J Fowler is a writer and artist who has published several collections of poetry, collaborative poetry, essays and novels. He has been commissioned by Tate Modern, BBC Radio 3, Tate Britain, the London Sinfonietta, Wellcome Collection and Liverpool Biennial.
Anthony Austin is an award-winning Executive Creative Director in film and advertising, with multiple credits in both short- and long-form fiction and documentary. He was Executive Producer on the BAFTA-award winning short film ‘Home’ about the refugee crisis.
Charlie Falconer built a successful career in commercial production before moving into independent film. She currently works on feature length documentaries with Halcyon Pictures, as well as in development at creative production company Lief, with a focus on social impact documentaries.
Risks and challenges
Working with vulnerable elders who suffer from diseases and disabilities is crucial to our commitment to representation, but it does come with its own set of unique challenges.
Over the past year, we have spent time with these elders to shape the narrative with then, feeding the challenges and revelations of their lives into the script.
We have shot test sequences with them, to ensure they are comfortable in front of the camera, and to get them used to a film environment.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (27 days)