Proposal, for an unmade film (set in the future)

(UK 2007, 16mm, 21:00 mins)

Distributed by LUX

Shot on the island of Lanzarote Proposal for an unmade film (set in the future) weaves together the extraordinary, shattered, volcanic landscape of the Timonfaya National Park and the ‘retro-futuristic’ utopian architecture of artist César Manrique.
Proposal... implies that it is assembled from ‘location recce’ and audition footage; the by-product of a pre-production process for a low budget science fiction film/architectural documentary, developed this far, abandoned, and only later discovered in an archive.
The suggested narrative that emerges from this found footage is that of a visitor attempting to create a paradise on earth – a story apparently influenced by Nick Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth – in which volcanic bubbles become time capsules, buildings become space ships and sculptural mobiles become radio antenna.


The form is significant as it plays on notions of the prospective nature of the proposal or ‘pre-production’ process and the retrospective nature of the ‘rediscovered’ film - that it is pre-production for a film set in the future adds to this elaboration of the placing of the work in time. This movement between past and future (and a desire to fix or arrest that movement) is echoed in the projected vision for the island of Manrique, its appearance to us now in a contemporary context, and the striking visual dynamic of the strange liquefied or shattered forms of the lava fields - now unchanging and inert.

The framework that this provides is only ever implied however, never being explicitly stated, and while the actors’ camera tests allow for extracts of scripted speech and references to the themes of the work (as if from the proposed film) the images don't serve to simply illustrate this conceptual conceit. Rather the architecture and the landscape and their particular visual quality forms the larger part of the works overall impression. In this way, through the films series of ‘temps mort’ sequences, the other worldliness of the landscape and the visionary idealism of the architecture speaks of the tension inherent in a utopian will to preserve an image and control change.

Overall the film implies (but never states) that the material shot on Lanzarote and in the studio (the headshots/tests etc.) was the by-product of a pre-production process for an eventually abandoned film. Subtle references allude to the possibility that this was to be an (albeit low budget) science fiction film that seems to be a copying, or remaking, or pirating, of the main narrative conceit of Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (a film about a visitor from another world driven to attempt an idealistic rescue mission) which then be extension, in some way casts Manrique as the title character.


In 1993 the island of Lanzarote was declared a ‘Biosphere Reserve’ by the UNESCO in recognition of its unique natural environment. This was largely the result of the work of César Manrique, Lanzarotan artist and prime mover in the introduction of rigid and prescriptive policies on building and the ‘development’ of the island.

His return to his homeland from New York in 1966 in the midst of his successful career as an artist was prompted by a concern that Lanzarote would suffer a similar fate of the high rise building and mass tourism as mainland Spain.

"When I returned from New York, I came with the intention of turning my native island into one of the more beautiful places in the planet, due to the endless possibilities that Lanzarote had to offer".

Under the influence of Manrique, the island Government (the Cabildo) rejected mass tourism and priority was given to blend tourist infrastructure with the beautiful but inhospitable environment. The Cabildo de Lanzarote regulates land uses by the Island Zonation Plan that curbs excessive urban and tourist developments, and in 1994 the Natural Protected Spaces Law was modified, to enable the protection of over 40% of the island. Over the last thirty years the means were created to shape the island in a way that is extraordinarily comprehensive and exacting.

As part of this process, in an attempt to create attractions of ‘genuine cultural interest’, Manrique developed a number of remarkable self-designed museums, restaurants, bars and pleasure gardens. Each of these buildings, including his house and studio (now the Fundacion César Manrique) were designed on site without a design process on paper. Their style, using as it does the volcanic formations of craters and caves is visionary, spectacular and dramatic - these are places with the quality of a film-set (and in particular a James Bond set). From todays point of view they are strangely nostalgic or even forlorn, seen as (perhaps outdated) statements about how the future was once imagined.

Physically the island itself is no less remarkable. Formed entirely by volcanic activity – most recently in 1912 and a period of 13 years of continuous eruptions from the island’s 300 or more volcanoes, during which time the island increased in size by 25%. About a third of the island is a landscape of ash-grey lava fields, for large areas uninterrupted by any vegetation, roads or buildings of any kind.

The island seems to act as an image of something timeless or placeless - 'otherworldly'. It has been used as both the pre-historic landscape of Don Chaffey/Ray Harryhausen’s 1966 film One Million Years BC for Hammer Films and as the alien planet in Wolfgang Peterson’s 1985 Sci-Fi film Enemy Mine - in both cases removed in the extreme from the present time and place to either the distant past or to the far reaches of outer space.

extract from project description. © Graham Ellard & Stephen Johnstone 2006.

The production of Proposal for an unmade film (set in the future) has been funded by a London Artists' Film and Video Award from Film London/Arts Council England.


Proposal, for an unmade film (set in the future)

A film by

Line Producer

Pre-Production and Lanzarote Liaison

Lanzarote Fixer

Original Music

'Actor auditioning for the part of César Manrique'
'Production Assistant'

Rear Projection
Sound Engineer
Processing & Telecine
Telecine Colourist
DAVE MASON, Technicolor
Negative Cutting
Post Production

Eberhard Weber 'A Pale Smile' and 'Fluid Rustle'
Produced by Manfred Eicher
(p) ECM Records 1979.
Benjamin Britten 'Elergy: Serenade for Tenor Horn, Strings. Op.31'
Performed by Pears,Tuckwell, London Symphony Orchestra, 1963, by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd.
As One 'Hyeres'
(p) 1996 Ubiquity Recordings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Johann Johannsson 'Karen byr til engil'
(p) 2002 Touch Music.

This film was made possible by the generous assistance of:
Fernado Gómez Aguilera, Director, and Cathy Visser, FUNDACION CÉSAR MANRIQUE;Taro de Tahiche.
Eugenia Betancor, CABILDO DE LANZAROTE; Jardin de Cactus, Los Jameos del Agua, Mirador del Rio, El Diablo.
Susy Montoya, CENTROS DE ARTE, CULTURA Y TURISMO; Montanas del Fuego, Parque Nacional Timanfaya.

Special thanks to:
JOHN HEATH, Soho Images

Film London LAFVA Producer
Film London Head of Production

Funded by Arts Council England, London with the support of Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network.

With additional funding from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

Distributed by LUX:













Images, from top.

Installation view; as part of 'In Search of the Unknown', Netherlands Institute of Media Art, Amsterdam, February - April 2009.

Mobile; Foundation Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Diablo Restaurant exterior, Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Mirador del Rio, interior, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Diablo Restaurant exterior, Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote - September 2006.

View from cliff top at Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Jesus de Miguel (as actor screen testing for the part of César Manrique) with Gabriela Miranda Rodrigez (as Studio Assistant), London Studio shoot - December 2006.

Jameos del Agua, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Mirador del Rio, exterior, Lanzarote - September 2006.

Telecine, Technicolor, London - November 2006