At the very least, producer Graham Leader and director Andrew Piddington deserve credit for resilience and perserverance. In the late 1980s, the producer and director adapted a 1981 Graham Swift novel called Shuttlecock, about a spy (played by Alan Bates) whose clandestine life and dark, spytastic secrets echoed through the life of his own son (Lambert Wilson, later of the Matrix trilogy). It played a film festival in 1991 and was broadcast but a single time on Channel 4 in England before enjoying a brief theatrical release in France.
Then the film disappeared. It never found a distributor, and its lead actor, Alan Bates, died in 2003. But, according to a story in the New York Times, that hasn’t kept the resourceful filmmakers from transforming Shuttlecock into a partially new motion picture titled Sins Of A Father, featuring 25 minutes of new footage that transform a two-generation saga into more of a three-generation saga, now more prominently involving the grandson of the character played by Bates.
It remains to be seen how the film’s unusual means of production will affect the finished product—whether it will feel like a Frankenstein’s Monster of a film crudely stitched together over a period of decades or something more organic. Just last month, I reviewed a movie called Black November that, similarly, used to be an entirely different movie entitled Black Gold, before it was reshot with a different cast and 60 percent new footage. Black November was a reworking of a film from just a few years earlier (2011) as opposed to decades earlier, but the film was still a mess that very much betrayed the messiness of its making.
According to the New York Times story, Shuttlecock was very much on the mind of Bates throughout his life—he considered his work in it among the finest of his career, and, in 2002, he talked with Leader about plans to save it. In a dramatic turn of events, as Leader told the Times, “I promised him, we have not written the last chapter on this...He died a year later.”
Keeping that promise, over 10 days in January 2014, Leader and Piddington reunited with the film’s surviving cast and set about filming new material and fleshing out the new film’s new dimensions. The new/old film will debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and compete in the Independent Film division, and regardless of how the film plays in front of an audience, the two at least have the satisfaction of finishing, for better or worse, something they started roughly a quarter-century ago. It is the rare film that gets a second chance; it’s the even rarer independent film that gets a second chance.