©MirandaPennell_Abadanworkers_sourced from BParchive

The Host

Dir: Miranda Pennell|UK|2015|60 mins|U

While investigating her late parents’ involvement with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BP), filmmaker Miranda Pennell came across the letters of a petroleum geologist in Iran in the 1930s, who would later embark on a search for the origins of civilisation.

Setting out on its own exploration to decipher signs from the fragmented images buried in the BP archive, The Host interweaves stories drawn from both personal memory and from the records of an imperial history.

Pennell’s immensely compelling film is about the stories we tell, the facts and fictions we live by - and their consequences.

Director's statement

"My father had joined the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in 1946 and our family had lived in Iran during two separate postings. The starting point for The Host was a disorderly mass of materials drawn from BP’s visual archive documenting the company’s origins in Iran.

I was interested in the role of BP and the British government in Iran’s traumatic 20th century. It became apparent that the intersection of an Imperial history and a personal history would provide a way to ground the abstractions of big historical events through living memory and the particularity of personal experience - albeit via the experiences and testimony of the colonisers.


©MirandaPennell_Abadanworkers_sourced from BParchiveThe Host ©Miranda_Pennell_Family_snaps_1©MPennell The Host geology©MPennell_The Host Hospital BParchive archive©MPennell_TheHost_Abadan panorama No borders ©MPennell_TheHost_KitchenScene ©MPennell_TheHost HpbeerbottleThe Host Archivists_glovesThe_Host_70©MPennell The Host_Board

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As I put the archival images together, I looked for coincidences and allowed my speculations to create connections with other images and stories. Although all of the film’s sources are either archival or family documents, the film often takes on a fictional character. This happens partly because the film is narrated as a dramatisation of my historical investigation, but mainly because it deals with the fantasies and projections of the British colonisers. It is this psychic dimension of colonialism that I wanted make palpable through the film, because of its persistence and contemporary relevance.

The title The Host refers to one of the key figures in the film, a contemporary of my parents who hosted many corporate parties in Tehran in the late 1960s. But also to the image of Iran as the host nation to the British for much of the 20th century, which suggests the relationship between parasite and host."

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