Passion projects often become encompassing. They can spin, become big, and carry us on rides down paths both distant and similar to the hopeful spark from which they began. Norwegian filmmaker Ann Coates’ latest documentary “The Dream of Britannia” documents the journey of her brother, Sigurd Coates, and his 20-year-long mission to build a replica of King Edward the VII’s famous sunken racing yacht, the Britannia.
As the film begins, Sigurd states, “It started with a dream. And I think the most important thing is to follow your dream. Dare to go ahead. Learn how to do it. See that you’ve achieved it. It’s a big part of life.”
His reflective tone and encouraging advice immediately draws you to his story. It’s a brilliant scene to open with because right away Ann Coates has created a bond between viewer and subject, leaving you to wonder what’s behind Sigurd’s statement. Does he indeed achieve his dream?
The film masterfully mixes three components: the historical, the sentimental, and the saga.
A brief history of the Britannia is given, which provides context and brings viewers into a circle of knowledge about the yacht, so even those without a background in boating or maritime history can appreciate the significance of Sigurd’s project.
One thing I loved about the film is despite being Sigurd’s sister, Ann Coates was on a journey of her own to better understand her brother. It’s a personal film, which even includes footage from old family movies, yet the film maintains a certain level of distance to it. It avoids being overemotional and instead feels like Coates is an observer like us, learning about her brother as the story goes along.
The crux of the film involves an international legal dispute between Sigurd and a dishonest businessman in Russia who sneakily attempts to gain ownership of the yacht Sigurd has devoted so much time, money, and effort to.
For obvious reasons, there’s little footage inside the courts and minimal time is spent actually discussing the lengthy legal proceedings on-screen. This is understandable, and frankly for the betterment of the film since there are no shortage of dramatic moments elsewhere.
There are many lessons to be learned from “The Dream of Britannia.” Far from a fairytale, it is a real look at the journey of a dream and the persistence of one man to save it. Though the dream we start with may not be the dream we end with, one must choose to pursue their passion and see where that dream leads. In the words of the admirable Sigurd Coates, one must always “Dare to go ahead.”
“The Dream of Britannia” is currently available for instant streaming on Reelhouse.