Set in 1649 Surrey, England, Gerard Winstanley leads a nonviolent action to reclaim land for the poor who have been dispossessed by Oliver Cromwell's recent Civil War. This historically-accurate film features a making-of documentary and has been digitally-mastered.
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Ten years after the completion of the pioneering British independent production It Happened Here, film historian Kevin Brownlow and military historian Andrew Mollo teamed up again for another impossible dream, a drama based on the life of 17th-century social activist Gerrard Winstanley. Frustrated with the lack of promised reforms under Oliver Cromwell, Winstanley led a much smaller revolution when he proposed using common lands as communal farms, an early form of socialism that terrified landowners and lords. Winstanley comes off a little saintly, but as performed by Miles Halliwell, he's an earthy, passionate man and his followers, the Diggers, are like a pioneering religious sect: determined, proud, and a little frightened. Brownlow and Mollo work with a command and assurance only hinted at in their first film. Mollo brilliantly re-creates 17th-century England on a tiny budget, while Brownlow puts it to film with grace and unsettling beauty: his images are like paintings in black and white, and his deft use of sound is inventive and evocative. The accompanying documentary It Happened Here Again celebrates the filmmaker's achievements with background on production details and the real-life history of Winstanley and the Digger movement. Brownlow went on to make some of the most acclaimed documentaries about cinema history ever produced, including "Unknown Chaplin" and Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow. --Sean Axmaker
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