A forgotten film made in the Forest of Dean will kick off our weekend of events marking 50 years since the publication of the book A Fortunate Man, with a screening in Soudley. Made in 1972 by then young producer-director Jeff Perks, the film was based closely on the book by John Berger and Jean Mohr about a Forest GP and his patients. Though not named, the book was actually about St Briavels doctor John Eskell and featured photographs of him and his patients.
The film was actually shot on location around Blakeney and Soudley. It features local people in all but the lead role of the doctor (played by actor Michael Bryant), and includes scenes with children and staff at Soudley School, and the children of Blakeney Hill Sunday School. Shortly after being made it was shown at a special Littledean House Hotel screening, then to the book’s author John Berger in London, but since then has lain largely forgotten in the vaults of the British Film Institute.
Following a tip off from a local expert, Reading the Forest travelled to London to view the film, and lo and behold, there on the screen was the Forest of Dean. As well as local footage providing a backdrop to the drama, the film includes interviews with a local Freeminer underground, and rare footage of the former chemical works at Beechnehurst as two of the men that work there speak about their jobs.
The film’s maker Jeff Perks (who now works as a sculptor and painter) will be at the screening. ‘I’m really looking forward to coming back to the Forest,’ says Jeff, ‘and especially hoping that maybe some of the people who appeared in the film will be at the screening’.
The film will be shown at Soudley Village Hall at 7.30pm on Friday 22nd June, and again at St Briavels on Saturday 23rd June . Both events are free, and you're all welcome with anyone who remembers the film being made, or who was in it, especially welcome to the Soudley screening to meet Jeff and share your memories of the film.