We Know A Better Word Than Happy


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

We Know A Better Word Than Happy
"Weans in hi-viz and high excitement, running and playing and shouting and learning. It is a delight to watch them at play."

This will help us "build anything to defeat the dragon." While talk of wooden axes and swords has shades of Minecraft, a family of woodlice speaks of more natural pursuits. A mixture of whimsy and anarchy, this is a portrait of children at play, and by extension the landscape that allows it.

The Children's Wood in Glasgow's Maryhill is a green space on a former brown-field site, one whose importance is significant in an area where over a quarter of households have no access to a garden, shared or otherwise. Glasgow's reputation as a 'dear green place' is one hard fought, and The Children's Wood is an example of community action creating a place that parallels those gifted to Greater Glasgow to assuage the conscience or estate fees of various Tobacco Lords and others. The tram network used to run much of the width of the Clyde valley, connecting these areas to the 'lungs of Glasgow', but a loss of public transport brought with a loss of public access, and reorganisation meant that Greater Glasgow was diminished to The City, further impeding access.

Access whose vital nature and vitality is palpable in these documented adventures. Weans in hi-viz and high excitement, running and playing and shouting and learning. It is a delight to watch them at play. Helen McRorie's work here is multi-hyphenated, Margaret Salmon's camera and Richey Carey's collaboration with sound are part and parcel of McRorie's direction, sound recording, and edit. Made of contrasts, the uniform reds and the wild woods, mud kitchen and parroted birdsong, explanations of play and play without explanation. To capture the glee, to contrast it to the scaffold of new construction, to find in the alchemy of mud and motion a better sense of happy than the word itself is a triumph.

McCrorie's work is often exhibited less as film than as video art, her 2019 project "if play is neither inside nor outside, where is it?" explored play in her native Perthshire, at the former military installation(s) at Cultybraggan. We Know A Better Word Than Happy is influenced by changes to UK coronavirus restrictions, and while "if play..." had a single narrator "We Know..." has at once many and none. The lack of context is itself a form of context, an opportunity to project upon these faces others, other places, other memories.

Reviewed on: 03 May 2022
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Following lockdown, children from Maryhill in Glasgow express their rights to outdoor play and learning as they explore a green space that was established through 10 years of community activism.

Director: Helen McCrorie

Year: 2021

Runtime: 5 minutes

Country: UK


GSFF 2022

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