The generosity of Aston University and The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham mean every school in the city is to receive a copy of a film which documents 100 amazing facts about Birmingham.

‘More Canals Than Venice’ – which covers everything from the invention of plastic to lawn tennis and plenty more besides – came about after award-winning film-maker Steve Rainbow decided he needed a project to keep him occupied between feature film commissions.

He had always thought Birmingham could offer a good source of material and started research after completing his first feature film ‘NFA’.

Six months later he had more than 150 facts about Birmingham, and he and business partner Blair Kesseler set about boiling the list down to 100.

In just a short space of time the film has become a sensation in the city. It has been featured on local TV and radio and has been seen by thousands of Brummies in the city as well as others living around the world.

It has already received industry acclaim by being selected as the opening film in the 2014 Departure Lounge series and is also being shown at this year’s Flat Pack Film festival.

Such is the support for the educational element of this not-for-profit film that in March a copy will be given to every school in Birmingham.

This has been facilitated by the generous sponsorship of Aston University, who are distributing a copy to every senior school and The Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham, who are distributing a copy to every junior and infant school in Birmingham.

Steve Rainbow
Steve Rainbow
 

On March 5 Mr Rainbow and Mr Kesseler are representing the region’s film-makers in the Houses of Parliament as one of several select businesses prompting the excellence of what is currently being made in Birmingham.

Mr Rainbow said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be invited. I’ve never been before. It’ll give me a chance to show the film to people who may ordinarily never see it and promote what an important city Birmingham is. I wonder if they actually have HP sauce in the canteen and if so whether they know that it used to be made in Birmingham. The famous sign is still a museum piece in the city.”

He added: “The response we’ve had from the public about the film has been amazing and I’ve received emails from people all over the world congratulating us for making it.

“In the first three days of it being on YouTube it got over 10,000 hits. We’ve taken it off for the moment so that the spotlight can be focused on the schools distribution, but it will return online at some point. The film has also inspired me in the writing of my next script which is a feature length historical comedy drama about Matthew Boulton called The Lunar Man.

“It’s a very funny and inspiring piece interweaving historical fact with high drama and I hope to be raising a lot of the finance from various sectors from within Birmingham.”

Returning to ‘More Canals Than Venice’ Mr Rainbow hopes highlighting Birmingham’s historic achievements will inspire a new generation of city innovators.

Among the inspirational figures featured is one of Birmingham’s most influential yet unsung heroes – Alexander Parkes – who accounts for two of the facts in the film – inventing both plastic and celluloid.

“There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t at some point in their life come into contact with plastic, sometimes in a life-saving way,” said Mr Rainbow.

“After Parkes had invented plastic he later developed celluloid, giving birth to the film industry, which therefore owes its existence to Birmingham. All this from one of the genius sons of the Second City.”

Other facts in the film include Birmingham being the place where the cavity magnetron was invented, a key component of radar and found in every microwave oven, as well as it being the home of icons like the Spitfire and the original Mini.

Birmingham is also the location of the highest score in county cricket and the place where the Football League was formed.

Explaining how the idea for the film first came about Mr Rainbow said: “My first feature film called NFA was selected for the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival.”

“When I talked to people while promoting the film and telling them how it was shot in Birmingham the usual response was ‘I know Birmingham, it’s got more canals than Venice’.

“Hearing it time and time again started to get on my nerves, so I challenged myself to make a film about Birmingham that said more than just inland waterway one-upmanship.”

On that very canals question Mr Rainbow said: “As it happens there are 35 miles of canals in Birmingham and only 26 miles in Venice – but I’m sure everyone knows that already.”

The film-maker said he was extremely grateful for the enthusiastic support received a during the making of the film.

He added: “Every agency, company and organisation we approached were only too pleased to help and not only let me film in their premises but gave me access and permission to archive pictures, including Film Birmingham, Acme Whistles, The NEC Group, Birmingham City Council, Aston Villa Football Club, Brindleyplace, Birmingham Cathedral, Sarehole Mill, Soho House, Birmingham Art Galleries and Museums and Aston Hall to name but a few.

“The icing on the cake came when the CBSO allowed me to use their recording of Elgar’s Enigma Variations to punctuate some of the film’s facts.”

n There is another chance for people to see ‘More Canals than Venice’ with a showing at the Midlands Arts Centre (mac) on Thursday March 6. To book a ticket visit https://www.macarts.co.uk/event/more-canals-than-venice--pg-.

Mr Rainbow is in post production with his latest film iWitness, a psychological thriller starring former EastEnders star David Proud and produced by 104 Films and Ark Media. The bulk of it was shot in Birmingham using local cast and crew.

For more details about More Canals Than Venice or other Steve Rainbow film projects email steve_rainbow@hotmail.com or visit www.rainbowfilms.co.uk.

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