For Sarah Wood, essay film is about questioning immediate political concerns particularly migration, war and observation and the role the moving image plays in these. Her focus is on the archive and the way the archival image is deployed to perform evidence as a shorthand for meaning. This resulted in films such as I Am A Spy (2014), which investigated the watchfulness of the 21st century; Three Minute Warning (2012) which was commissioned by FACT for Channel 4’s Random Acts and Murmuration x 10 (2015) made in collaboration with the writer Helen Macdonald.
For Wood the particular potential of the essay film is held in language, and this has dominated her practice to-date. Her work often questions voice and authority particularly in the voicing of memory and the telling of official versions of history; Dictionary of Lost Languages (2015) looks at language erasure where her most recent project (a collaboration with Eve Lacey) interrogates recent government neologisms on the subject of migration such as “crimmigration” and attempts to counter these with the invention of a language of welcome.
Much of Wood’s work involves a strong collaborative element. In 2007 she co-founded Club des Femmes – a positive space for the collective consideration of ideas through women’s art and, keen to open up dialogue with the essay film form, her most recent films have been made in conjunction with archives, artists, filmmakers, writers and organizations like UNESCO and the UNHRC.