Have You Seen Me?
RIGGHHHTTTT so imagine this: a friend of a friend of a friend invites you to stay at his countryside home for the weekend (lol imagine that). You hate the countryside. The isolation, the smell, the lack of...everything. But you’ve found yourself already standing in this friend of a friend of a friend’s garden. The sun is about to rise, for some reason you’re still up, and you find yourself just staring into the expanse of black and blue that seems to never end in front of you. The Great British Countryside. Then, in the corner of your eye, you spot a black shape. Skulking along the row of trees that line the wood, the morning light just about waking up. It’s a…panther. Seriously, a fucking panther. You’re staring at a black panther in Northamptonshire, England. No word of a lie.
Do you believe it? Asking for a friend. Of a friend. Of a friend.
That’s quite a claim isn’t it. To see a black panther in our humble British countryside. Ain’t so humble now. Panthers have supposedly been spotted roaming our countryside since the 70s - a myth / fable / folktale / anecdote I have been fed as a child growing up in these Northamptonshire woods. The big cat.
I have gathered stories, chatting to friends, neighbours, farmers, dog-walkers; some claim to have seen one, others wistfully cock their heads at the premise.
What does the panther tell us about our culture? What does our culture tell us about the panther? What would it mean to inhabit a panther’s identity? Framing this narrative on screen, as performance , theatre and fiction the myth brushes up against true accounts and justifiable (ish) evidence. Preserving the accounts and stories shared but at the same time playing with the myth, tossing it from paw to paw as a cat would a lifeless bird…I want to see just how close this creature can get to our realities - breaking through your screen and stepping gracefully, gently onto your laps. A black panther curls up for his afternoon nap.
‘Have You Seen Me?’ is a film that merges true accounts with elements of fiction, following a man who, after years of searching, has become completely absorbed into the myth. He almost lives between the real world and the ‘non-real’ world, stuck in a sort of purgatory. Half man half panther. So engrossed he is in the story, the myth and the character he is ‘playing’, he starts to write letters to the beast. These act as way markers that guide you through the film as he trails great expanses of the British countryside, crossing vast fields, tiny wooded lanes and ancient walls in search of…well, answers. Will he find what he’s looking for?
Throughout this project I have been conscious to appreciate the importance of the word of the various people who claim to have seen this infamous black panther. The fiction grounds itself into our realities when placed alongside these anecdotes told with real reminiscence, power and intellect. Using this knowledge I can play with the performative elements within these tales. The scared dog walker. The man in his car. The cyclist. All of these characters play a part in the story, contained amongst a few villages stitched into the Great British countryside. What will happen next?
I am writing this after having spent the past 6 months living and breathing the word ‘panther’. It lingers on my tongue, waiting to pounce out of my mouth when I least expect it.
It is Day 80 82 86 of isolation. As I am writing this, rid of the looming deadline, I am left with my brain whirring, coming to terms with the past 6 months of panther. Having been cut off from the world, in a bubble, on a farm in the depths of the Northamptonshire countryside for coming on 11 12 weeks, the panther that I share territory with is getting closer and closer. It’s as if it’s sitting behind me, eyes glaring into the back of my head, working their way through my brain and onto my computer screen.
You’ll see what I mean.
P.S. Oh. I’ve been meaning to tell you. I think there’s a panther behind you. No really.
Did you look? I bet you did.
P. P. S. I have never seen a panther in the flesh. Not even after all this. My bet is you know someone who has. A friend of a friend of a friend, perhaps.
Visit www.haveyouseenmefilm.com or follow @haveyouseenme.film on Instagram for film release dates and more!
Real map of sightings created by big cat fanatic Nigel Spencer
Poster placed at location of sighting Nov. 2019
Behind the Scenes
Still from film (1)
Letter 2 of 6
Still from film (2)
Still from film (3)