Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ashes to Diamonds

(Aired Friday, 24th June at 7.35pm on Channel 4) If you missed this, get an update on 4OD, no excuse now even for Mac users. Part of a series of documentaries, featuring first-time directors. The 25 minute airing time, prevents the film maker digging too deep, and the limited timeframe means we get a pretty down to earth view of a topic. (excuse my awful puns!)

The excellent efforts of a certain DAVID BRINDLEY, looks at the art of cremation (wait, come back!) and the unusual things people do with the ashes of their loved ones. We are introduced to Helen, who keeps the remains of her husband in a plastic Chinese takeaway box, with "STEVE" written on the lid in marker pen. Helen's plan was to put his ashes into 50 shotgun cartridges and have him fired into the sky by his friends. She also turned (some of) him into a diamond. To accomplish this, she had to post him off in a Jiffy bag, leading to an unusual scene at the Post Office when the clerk asks about the package's value. Have a look for yourself at some of the jewellery designs at, let me know what you think.

Another lady who we met, lost her husband very shortly and suddenly after returning from a holiday abroad. After his funeral, she sent a favourite holiday snap to a local artist, who mixed his ashes into the paint to re-create the photograph. The unveiling was quite emotional even for the detached viewer. A very nice idea, something I would actually consider doing for myself after the loss of a loved one. The result was actually beautiful, and very fitting as the ash acted as the mixed media sitting on the rocks of the cliff face.

Helen's story in particular is told rather affectionately, never getting close to being mawkish or morbid. Ashes to Diamonds is a heartfelt, eye-opening, and at times funny film exploring how creative some Brits are becoming when it comes to our cremated remains.

In addition, you could watch this 3 minute wonder, originally aired on channel 4 in 2006. It touches on the general concept, but David Brindley takes a very fresh approach in comparison, so don't be put off.

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