Exodus: press coverageThe Times, 9 November 2007
The New York Times, 2 October 2006:
“The people of Margate seemed to be enjoying their Exodus. To help Ms. Woolcock tell her epic story – to be shown on British television next year – she wanted an epic gesture. It was supplied by the sculptor Anthony Gormley, best known for his vast winged figure Angel of the North that towers over the hillside by the British town of Gateshead.
“For the Margate Exodus, Mr. Gormley was commissioned to create a similar towering figure, 80 feet high, in the parking lot next to Dreamland. Constructed out of rubbish – car parts, lounge chairs, broken pianos – and with one raised arm, it looked like a cross between the Statue of Liberty and the Wicker man. On Saturday night it was ritually set on fire: an epic gesture meant to turn Moses’ burning bush into a grand act of defiance by the ghetto inmates.” (Michael White)
Sunday Times Culture, 18 November 2007:
“In Penny Woolcock’s reworking of the Old Testament account of the Israelites’ exile, Moses (Daniel Percival) is the abandoned child of a fleeing refugee. Rescued by Batya (Ger Ryan), he grows up as the adopted son of her husband, Pharaoh (Bernard Hill), a politician who confines undesirables, ranging from immigrants to petty criminals, in a mixture of shanty town and concentration camp called Dreamland. Branded a killer after killing a cop menacing his girlfriend, Moses escapes into Dreamland, where he eventually leads the oppressed in revolt against Pharaoh.
“Incorporating elements of sci-fi and Shakespearean romance, Woolcock’s script is deft and inventive in finding equivalents for incidents in the biblical Moses story.” (John Dugdale)
The Daily Telegraph, 9 November 2007:
“It’s not easy to make a Cecil B DeMille-style biblical epic in Margate. Especially on a budget of £2 million. The Margate Exodus has a cast of hundreds, the English Channel standing in most acceptably for the Red-Sea, a multi-media sweep and the mission to update the story of Moses leading his people to freedom. It’s either visionary or barking.
“At a café on a deserted seafront, the writer-director Penny Woolcock explains the genesis of Exodus. ‘Who are the Jews of today?’ she asks rhetorically. ‘Asylum seekers, obviously, but also people who are in exile in their own country and who somehow seem surplus to requirements, like the long-term unemployed, people with mental health or drug problems, beggars.’
“This abandoned holiday haven, with its unwanted hotel rooms, offers billets for all the above, and inspired films like The Last Resort and Children of Men. Exodus takes the concept a step further. A far-Right politician, Pharaoh Mann, rounds up undesirables and imprisons them on the site of the old Dreamland funfair. Then his adopted son, Moses, falls in love with one of the ghetto’s occupants.” (Sheila Johnston)
The Times, 31 August 2007:
“An unemployed printer and an amateur rapper are among a group of non-actors who agreed to appear in a feature film for a bit of a laugh. They never expected it to be selected for one of the most prestigious events in the industry’s calendar, the Venice Film Festival.
"Exodus features 25 non-actors who were given speaking roles, and more than 800 extras. All are from Margate, Kent, which thrived when Turner painted there but which today is defined by unemployment, drugs, crime and asylum seekers.
"Some answered an advertisement in their local newspaper. Others were cast from schools, shops, pubs, clubs and community centres, or simply off the street because they had the right look.” (Dalya Alberge)
London Lite, 19th November 2007:
“Woolcock’s spinning of the plagues that Moses and his freedom fighters use to persuade Pharaoh to release them from the camp is inspired; she conjures a mix of ecological, biological and technological terrorism.” (Ceri Thomas)
Daily Express, 20 November 2007:
“Writer-director Penny Woolcock was certainly on to something when she picked this fading seaside gem for her present day parable. Not unlike ancient Palestine, Margate has seen an influx of newcomers in recent years, some under the impression that they’ve reached the Promised Land.
“In this offering, a few local citizens, rather like the assorted Canaanites, Edomites and Cushites in the Bible, were less than happy about their town’s changing make up, the result of a collision of cultures that’s been going on elsewhere for thousands of years.
“Woolcock’s vision, however, transformed it into an apocalyptic nightmare. The rusting arcades of Dreamland became a mixture of the West Bank and Belsen – a place where all the undesirables were confined behind the high wire fences. They were joined there by Moses (Daniel Percival), the adopted son of the local leader Pharaoh Mann (Bernard Hill), whose black shirt and military moustache suggested more than a whiff of the Thirties’ fascist leader Oswald Mosley.” (Matt Baylis)
G2, 19 November 2007:
“Any film by Penny Woolcock is worthy of attention, and her dystopian reimagining of the story of Exodus is arresting, Relocating the fable to Margate in the future, where the xenophobic politician Pharaoh Mann spreads fear and loathing while his adopted son, Moses, is drawn to the downtrodden, Woolcock’s production doesn’t always work, but it’s nevertheless compelling. It’s also quite beautiful, with even a dilapidated fairground possessing a grim splendour. And like the most powerful speculative fiction – Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale springs to mind – it’s all about the here and now.” (Gareth McLean)