Skip to content
Still The Arbor

The Arbor

Clio Barnard / 2010 / 95 min.

In 1980, when Andrea Dunbar was only 18, her semi-autobiographical play, The Arbor, was performed in London. Director Clio Barnard made an impressive reconstruction of Dunbar’s short life, using the voices of people from her circle.

poster IDFA 2022

In 1977, when Andrea Dunbar was 15, she started work on The Arbor, a play based on her life in a rundown neighborhood of Bradford, in the north of England. Three years later, the play enjoyed a successful run in London. Dunbar became famous and wrote several other plays about similar themes—sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, violence—but then died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1990.

Director and artist Clio Barnard spent two years making sound recordings of the people from Dunbar’s circle. Instead of using the material as an inspiration for a conventional documentary, she had actors lip-synch to the audio. Every sigh, gasp, and pause in the voices get articulated impeccably by the actors. She interweaves this with scenes from The Arbor that are acted out in Dunbar’s neighborhood.

Through the confrontation of documentary and fiction, Barnard shows that documentary is always a construction. It is the perfect medium for Dunbar’s semi-autobiographical texts, in which the boundary between fiction and reality is truly a gray area.

This is part of



Clio Barnard

Production year


Original title

The Arbor


95 min.





Part of

IDFA 2022

Documentary lovers, keep 9 through 20 November free in your calendar. The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam presents its 35th edition in cinemas throughout Amsterdam, including several special programmes in Eye.

Learn more
campaign image IDFA 2022
Planning on having a drink or a bite to eat? Book online for Eye Bar Restaurant.
Share your love for film and become a member of the Eye Society.