King for a Day
61-minute documentary (completed 2022)
by Barbara Santi
Distributed by DER.
King for a Day is a poetic archive-led documentary immersing us in the personal story of the people of Padstow, their ancient rituals and the challenges they face in a rapidly changing world. Tensions between tradition and progress punctuate the importance of cultural identity and the relevance of folk customs in our globalised society. King for a Day is an intimate portrait of a place and community pushed to the margins. A cinematic journey interweaving audio-visual archive spanning 150 years. Will this be the last generation to tease the 'Old Oss' from her stable to welcome the Summer?
King for a Day is the inspirational story of indigenous Britain following a marginalized community at the heart of one of Europe's oldest folk customs, told through the narratives and archives of its people. A personal insight into a community in transition – Padstow's "sexy, savage springtime rite", known as the Obby Oss, is an ancient, ritualistic celebration welcoming the summer on May 1st. Filmed over nine years in the shadow of Brexit, the documentary reveals how the tradition acts as a form of community defiance and a vehicle for the Padstow people to have a voice. For the first time, we see the significance of May Day through local eyes.
King for a Day is a story about friendship, hope, celebration and unity.
Supported by Sheffield Doc Fest Fast Track to Features, selected for the Specials Board, and selected to pitch at BFI Documentary Film Fund pitch (2014).
Director/Producer/DOP/Editor - Barbara Santi
Executive Produced - awen productions
Composer - Jamie Mills
Additional music - the people of Padstow
Aerial and additional photography - Jake Potter
Audio mix - Richard Butler
Colourist - Annette Brown
Editing consultant - Jane Val Baker
Archive - BFI, SWFTA, Malcolm McCarthy, Doc Rowe Collection, people of Padstow.
Review by William Fowler, Curator of Artists' Moving Image, BFI National Archive and the co-founder and co-programmer of The Flipside at BFI Southbank.
King for a Day is a simultaneously poetic yet lucid examination of the power of the Oss Oss Mayday ritual to the people of Padstow and the tensions its holds for them through multiple generations and the changes Cornwall has seen for decades now, in the wake of industrial decline and the rise of tourism and second homes which push locals out of the areas in which this and other important aspects of home and community making find their place.