25 February 2017



I spent a very interesting Friday night recently watching these two films by acclaimed documentary-maker Marc Isaacs. Yeah, while the rest of ye were all out boozing it up and getting off with each other, haha, I was learning some extraordinary stuff about the world we live in that I hadn't previously known. Am I the better for it? Well, definitely, but some of the stuff I learned is so weird and bizarre that I have simply got to tell you guys about it. Strap yourselves in now, won't ye? It's gonna be a bumpy ride...

SOMEDAY MY PRINCE WILL COME tells the story of Laura-Anne, a girl of only nine or ten, who lives in the small British coastal village of Siddick. Despite her tender years, she's already in love with a guy her own age called Ben.

They've already been out with each other, broken up with each other, gotten back together and had other girls and boys, all the same age as themselves, come between them. They may be only babies in the eyes of the world, but they seemed to already have fully-developed love lives that almost exactly mirror those of their parents and other adults of their acquaintance.

I was deeply uncomfortable throughout this film. I don't know about you guys, but I don't want to hear that kids as young as ten are getting up to all-sorts behind their parents' backs, or (who knows?) maybe even with the full knowledge and consent of their parents. I have a son myself and if I thought he was getting up to stuff like the kids in the film are doing, I'd have a heart attack.

I don't want to see ten-year-olds kissing full-on on the mouth in the sand dunes or a small girl massaging a topless boy's back with a bottle of lotion she presumably nicked from her mum. They're too young for all that adult stuff, goddammit. Laura-Anne hasn't even started her periods, which we glean from the scene in which she and her Mum read laughingly together about puberty from a book.

Against a background of windmills, absentee dads (one's been in prison, we gather), glorious sunsets and a virtual menagerie of babies and animals (my favourite scene is where the baby ecstatically pets the rabbit), we see the kids running around the place largely unsupervised by their parents, who have other kids to look after and presumably other things to think about.

Trouble in school, truancy and interaction between the sexes that's only one step away from being sexual is all par for the course as film-maker Marc Isaacs peeps into the kids' lives over the course of one year. 

Narrated in rhyming couplets by Laura-Anne, the film is utterly fascinating as well as disturbing. We don't necessarily want to see this stuff and acknowledge that it's going on, but maybe we should. Anyway, thanks to Marc Isaacs, now we can. Make what you will of it.

PHILIP AND HIS SEVEN WIVES ignited a powder-keg of anger in me that's still burning away good-style. Philip Sharpe is an ordinary bloke, a former rabbi and Jewish disc-jockey, nothing much to look at, who several years ago decided that God was talking to him. He was a former Hebrew king, God told him, and as a Jewish patriarch and prophet and all-round top bloke he's entitled to seven wives. Philip promptly went out and acquired same. It's almost beyond belief, isn't it?

Marc Isaacs first heard of this extraordinary circumstance when a friend of his told him that her cleaner was one of the seven wives. He gained access to the strange family and was permitted to film them for a BBC documentary over the course of several months. The insights he gained have really got to be watched to be believed, but I'll try to give you the gist as best I can.

I can't stress enough that Philip is just an ordinary bloke, nothing special or Messianic about him at all. Yet, in the film, he has seven wives and several children all living in his farmhouse in the English countryside with him.

He doesn't seem to do much himself except muck about with his beloved horses while the wives cook and clean, mind the kids, work in Philip's failing second-hand furniture shops and shovel the shit left behind by Philip's horses. (One of the wives laughing referred to herself and the other women as 'the poo queens!' Trust me, that's nothing to flippin' laugh about!) And we already knew that at least
one of the wives worked as a cleaner as well, so maybe some of the others did too.

Several times a week, Philip gathers the wives around the kitchen table for a meeting. This means that Philip, talking into an actual microphone, berates the sobbing and obviously upset women for hours on end about their spiritual and personal failings and shortcomings. They take his rantings and ravings very much to heart, while Philip himself just comes across as a big bully-boy and a whiny spoilt brat who loves to hear himself talk at great length.

In an excellent documentary filled with stand-out scenes, there are a few scenes I'll never forget. Philip's almost elderly oldest wife Harva, for example, getting distressed about her failure to have a child with Philip, even though Sarah in the Bible was gifted with a baby by God long after she'd passed childbearing age.

Or another wife talking about her emotionally neglectful childhood which possibly contributed to her gravitation towards Philip, or his first wife, Judith, the only actually Jewish wife, crying about how the loss of private time with Philip is the thing that affected her most about Philip's taking of six other wives, for which act I bet he never asked her for her approval or possibly even her opinion.

Check out the scene in which Philip, drunk on too much wine with his dinner, goes to lie down on the couch while the wives pamper him and bring him ice-cream. The wives all wear gold wedding bands, they cover their hair with scarves, they don't use make-up and they wear clothing chosen for practicality and comfort rather than style.

Philip's youngest and most recent wife Karyn is pregnant by him during the filming. She lives in the house too and so does her mother, who's known as the 'matriarch' of the family. The set-up has her full approval. It's hard to believe that this woman didn't want more for her daughter than a one-seventh share of some guy who already had six other wives. Maybe Mom just wanted a place to stay? People have done worse for less, if you think about it.

While there's no mention of any physical abuse on Philip's part towards the women, he demonstrates devastating emotional cruelty in his temporary banishments of wives Tracy and Harva for different reasons.

And, while he doesn't shout or raise his voice as such, his tendency to browbeat the wives with his long harangues can't be discounted as a possible form of abuse. I wonder what the people at Women's Aid would make of Philip and his set-up. I personally would object to his constant off-key singing of religious songs, while the women all clap, pray and cry. There's more than one way to abuse a person, you know...!

To the wives, this man is some kind of a god or a king. To the viewers, he's almost certainly just a chancer who wants to have his cake and eat it too. Seven slices of cake, to be precise. The wives are all lovely genuine people who surely could do better.

I wouldn't put up with Philip myself for a minute. I'm by no means a feminist (far from it!) but not for anything would I shovel shit for some guy who might be sleeping with someone other than me at the end of that day or even for the next several nights until 'my turn' to be with him came around again.

Still, each to their own, isn't that what they say? At the end of the day, I guess it's not really our business. No crime is apparently being committed. (Except maybe bigamy, but there's not even one mention of the 'b' word!)

These two startling pieces of documentary film-making are out now on DVD courtesy of the company known as SECOND RUN, which has produced some cracking releases in recent times. 

There's also an interview with the cute, curly-headed film-maker Marc Isaacs in which he chats about how he came to make both films, and there's a catch-up eleven years later with the parties from both films. It's absolutely fascinating to see how they've fared in the intervening years. It's like watching Eric Idle play snooty documentary film-maker Declan Desmond in THE SIMPSONS...!

I'm still fuming about Philip and his seven wives. How dare he get away with such nonsense? He's no more a Messiah than I am myself. Anyone at all can say they've talked to God and become a King or Queen. I could say it myself and apply in the newspapers or online for seven husbands. One to do all the housework and gardening, and the rest to satisfy me sexually, haha. You know what I'm thinking now? It's nice bloody work if you can get it.

SECOND RUN DCD 114/ BARCODE: 5060114151130


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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