Cleft Lip

A legendary story reimagined for the modern day

Set in a contemporary Britain not far removed from our own, filmmaker Erik Knudsen adapts Sophocles’ classic Oedipus Rex, weaving into it modern-day questions of the ethics of fertility treatment and trading in donor sperm and eggs.

Campbell and Jaz, a couple trying for a child of their own, spiral towards their own terrifying conclusions as they uncover the truth about their passionate relationship amidst family turmoil and a web of dark secrets…

About The Filmmaker

Erik Knudsen is Professor of Media Practice at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston. Erik regularly conducts guest workshops at international film schools, such as the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba, where he was Head of Editing between 2001 and 2009. He was born in Ghana to a Danish father and Ghanaian mother in 1956. He grew up, and was primarily educated, in Denmark, with a few years of schooling in Britain. After a stint of Law studies at Århus University in Denmark, he then went on to study film production at York University in Toronto, Canada, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Specialist Honours in Film Production in 1983. He returned to Britain in 1984, where he has lived and worked since. He gained his PhD from the University of Salford, 2002.

Erik’s previous feature The Raven On The Jetty won the Jury Award at the Madrid International Film Festival in 2014 and was released in 2015.

More recently, Erik Knudsen has been involved with photography and exhibited his photographic essay, Cuba In Waiting, at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester in 2013 and Dean Clough Galleries in Halifax in 2014/15. His recent project, Doubt, is an interrelation project that works with a film and a book was exhibited at the Leica Store Manchester in January and February 2018.

Director’s statement

With Cleft Lip, I wanted to bring the archetypal themes of a classic story to life in the contemporary everyday.

Classically epic and archetypal themes often tend to be adapted into narrative film as either relatively faithful historical adaptations which mimic the epic nature of their originals, or as contemporary or futuristic adaptations recreating an equivalent epic spectacle. They can therefore feel mythical and remote.

In poetry and literature, the epic may be as a consequence of a metaphoric turn of phrase, while the literal adaptation or translation of this often results in audiovisual bonanza of spectacle.

Few have done in cinema what James Joyce did with The Odyssey’s leading character, Ulysses, in literature; translating the essence of an archetypal classic story into a context that reflects the immediate and intimate everyday circumstances of the author and his audience.

In bringing a poverty that imbeds epic themes into the small scale intimacy of everyday contemporary life, Joyce used heritage and history to advance the narrative language of the literary novel.

Back to the future, so to speak.

With Cleft Lip I aspired to achieve similar relevance through the creation of an innovative contemporary adaptation of one of the classic stories of European civilization.

Identity is a crucial element of how we create meaning, purpose and responsibility in our lives and nowhere is this more important than in having a sense of our personal history and lineage.

Fertility and the social context we have created around it has changed greatly in the past decades, creating serious challenges for a growing number of people who are uncertain of their true heritage.

In some European countries, it is increasingly possible that both egg and sperm donations may be anonymously supplied to those seeking to have children and as fertility becomes commodified there are growing numbers of people who may be mingling with siblings, for example, that they do not know are their siblings.

The discovery of the link between the themes of a 2,350 year old play and this was a Eureka moment for me: I found the story of Oedipus could merge with these themes and challenges in contemporary life, whilst still reflecting on the unchanging and powerful relationship between a child and their parents.

Released in the UK Friday 8th March 2019

  • Director: Erik Knudsen
  • Year: UK 2017
  • Duration: 84 mins.
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production company: One Day Films

Official website

“This curio offers up resonant moments, not least because the scenario it posits feels distinctly plausible”

Hannah McGill
Sight & Sound

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