How It Happened Here tells the story of the making of a film and the subsequent reception that the film
received and the controversy and alarm that it stirred up when it was first released. The
film-makers were two teenagers (18 and 16) and they started out with no budget and a borrowed
16 mm camera. The project took 8 years to complete.
Part of the book is a humorous and detailed account of how the boys overcame all the practical
and financial hurdles of amateur film making and saw the project through to completion and
national release. This in itself would qualify the book as a thoroughly entertaining read and a
sound basis for a course in film making or media studies of any kind. But this was no ordinary
film. Kevin and his co-director Andrew Mollo took as their theme the “what if?” idea of a
conquered and occupied England, after a hypothetical defeat and invasion following the Dunkirk
As they grew up with the project and developed their own political understanding the
film departed from its “war adventure” origins and developed into a low key and terrifying
Orwellian fantasy confronting its audience with the detailed reality of life under Fascism,
darkened by all the moral compromise that is forced on everyone who wants to survive under such
It Happened Here is a provocative and challenging film that demands of everyone who sees it
“What would I have done?”. The British people had never before been able to imagine with such
clarity the fate that they had so narrowly (some would say, unaccountably) avoided. A nation
lulled by Churchillian rhetoric into complacent self-satisfaction was shaken more than anyone
could have foreseen by this vision of what might have been.
But in telling his story Kevin had allowed genuine British Fascists to speak their mind, and
therein lies the starting point of the second part of the book, the battle to confront the
misunderstanding and hostility of Jewish organisations and other well-meaning people who had
failed to appreciate the irony of Kevin’s allowing the Fascists to be themselves in front of
The six minute sequence became more famous than the film itself, a symbol of every
serious artist’s struggle with the forces of censorship and narrow-mindedness. The story of
Kevin’s attempts to overcome the wall of misunderstanding that stood between the completed film
and its general release touch on just about every issue of artistic freedom and will serve as
an inspiration to anybody who believes in free speech and the other things that distinguish
England as it is from England as it might have been.
Arguably Kevin and his film have never been fully accepted and his career has never completely
recovered from this early brush with the arbiters of artistic good taste and the
boundary setters of what we may and may not say. But what he did say was profoundly worth
Almost thirty-five years after its initial publication this book has lost none of its
impact, freshness and relevance. And none of its quietly understated humour. The UKA Press is
privileged to be entrusted with its re-issue.
(The book contains almost 100 pictures, mostly stills from the film, and an introduction by renowned film critic and author
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