For the past few months, I’ve been re-mastering This-That in close collaboration with the film’s author, Jacob Barua, who lives in Kenya.

To recap, This-That was made in 1989 when we were both third year Film and Literature students at the University of Warwick. It is a fictional drama about an alienated student who finds transcendence in a stone figurine. It was my first involvement in a film project and a great all round experience on the acting, editing and production front.

The film was screened twice at the university in 89 but was shown more as a rough cut. We had not devoted enough time (days rather than months) for the edit process and a key animation sequence, shot by a security guard on 8mm film, could only be included after the end credits for the second screening. The film was seen by about 100 people on a 10,000 plus student campus. As there was very little feedback, we always assumed it left those select few stunned in a cinematic stupor. It received more rigorous scrutiny when projected at Lodz film school where Jacob subsequently enrolled. One Prof likened it to a visual tone poem in the style of T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land.
​​It has taken us a full 26 years and the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations at the University of Warwick to do justice to a  film that gave “students and classics a bad name” according to one apocryphal review.

The master VHS tapes were stored in the perfect micro-climate of Nairobi. Natural deterioration of the magnetic tape has resulted in some contrast loss and discolouration, especially noticeable in shots of the sky. Jacob attempted the first digital transfer at a Kenyan lab but the DVD files he sent me were poor. The tapes were then couriered over and I had a Kodak lab transfer them into editable AVI digital files or such was the theory. Despite several efforts, this lab could not perform a professional service and the files either had an interference signal or no sound, and even more lamentably, were unable to open up in Mac as Kodak were using Windows based systems. Refund time. Third time lucky and another lab was able to get a clean digital transfer from the VHS. They also cropped in slightly to remove the flickering decay at the edges of the 720×576 video resolution format.

While we may have attained a state of grace with the imagery, the sound track is still a work in progress. There are plans to completely re-score the film and this will hopefully be accomplished next year, perhaps as a commission for a young music student or budding composer at the University of Warwick.
​I believe the film holds up incredibly well and this is a testament to the mystical cinematic talent of Jacob. The biggest problem however with the original were the labyrinthine sequences shot at the student union and fancy dress ball. This rightly gets the scissors treatment and is now more tightly interwoven with the preceding and concluding scenes of dream and spiritual release.  Both Jacob and I wondered whether Him (the name of my character) should speak in the new version;  we could have added an interior monologue. Sensibly we have stuck to the original conception and have maintained the quality of enigmatic silence. I only utter one “rosebud” word in the film.
This-That is very personal and like watching myself through a looking glass. There is some loss of light transmission (not digitally induced) but it is strangely reassuring to see a twenty-six year younger version of your self. I am dressed in the film in 1940s suits and trilby; that was my fashion throughout the 1980 and 90s. I was and still am  haunted by Greek mythology (it is in my cultural DNA) as momentous events unravel on the political stage. Those events of 1989 involved the collapse of communist walls and the abortive student lead Democracy Movement in China. How did the young of the world react to their elders? In the film, we have an off-key portrait of a student, a budding writer who is literally lost for words. For him there is no solidarity with peers or the possibility of creative action, whether individual or collective. The figurine he reaches out to grasp contains some unknown or primal connection to a past-present-future. If there is a message at the close of the film (no spoiler alerts here), perhaps it is that our everyday actions and infrequent visions do not need to be held in temporal check by a freeze frame or fade out. We can and should direct and edit our own lives. I sincerely hope there are not too many alienated students amongst the current generation at Warwick numbering in excess of 25,000. How many of them will be experiencing This-That?

This-That was screened on 3rd March 2016 at its spiritual home.

Digital restoration has been supported by a grant from the Centre for International Theatre Development.  ​

This-Trailer trailer.



This-That returned to Warwick University on 3rd March after a hiatus of 26 years. The film was made by Jacob Barua and myself in 1989 when we were third year Film and Literature students. It was screened as part of a programme celebrating filmmaking on the campus over the past 50 years.

The film was presented as work in process and so the feedback from contemporary students was invaluable. What did they make of this dramatic portrait of an enigmatic student who finds transcendence in Greek mythology?

Bertille Outhat: “Your film really worked on me, made me anxious. Also, I was impressed on how the editing was good, the juxtaposition of shots. The music is really powerful and emerged me into the images. Well done!”

Estelle Botbol: “Very nice job. Interesting atmosphere although too mysterious for me to understand. Loved the background sounds and music and the colours. Very mysterious!”

Geoffrey Mugford: “Suggestions for improvement: cut half the running time, adjust sound levels as there were some slight sync problems, market as vintage / charming out of time campus and think about colour grading (if possible).”

​This is all food for thought, especially as we received very little feedback from the 100 students who saw the film all those decades ago. Our student film is dedicated to those who taught us to fly and it was poignant to be reunited with both Charlotte Brunsdon and the recently retired Victor F. Perkins who is the founding father of film at Warwick.

During my return to campus, I was searching for the name of music bands that featured in the film and whose identity still eludes us. We want to pay tribute to them in our rolling end credits. The Boar is the student paper for the campus, but alas the copies for April 1989 were not present in either the union’s own archive or in the Modern Records Centre. If anyone can shed light on these musical performers, please do not hesitate to contact me.

As one would expect there were tremendous changes to the campus: a student population nearly trebled to 28,000; new buildings or adaptions to buildings, most noticeably a revamped student union; the ubiquitous Costa coffee; Amazon delivery lockers. But the beating heart and philosophical soul remains the same – students at an exciting juncture in their adult lives.

In the late 1980s’ politics revolved around the Apartheid regime in South Africa (Nelson Mandela bar has long gone), the Tory government introducing the first proposal for student loans and what features most noticeably in our film, the unravelling of the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe and the student protest movement in China.

​As This-That was once again being screened, the campus was aflutter with students campaigning to become the next Sabbatical, Liberation, Faculty, and Environment and Ethics Officers as well as elected delegates to the National Union of Students Conference. As our film dramatises the alienation of a student, it’s reassuring to witness the activities of a new generation as they shape power structures and build a new future.