There is a lot of genuine poverty in this country and many things, including film, seem to be run from London (and that’s plain fact – any filmic PR people I have dealt with have always been located in London, even those representing Scottish films or filmmakers), but I still haven’t been able to understand why Scots just haven’t gotten off their backsides and made their own flickershows. I can only surmise that it’s about a lack of self-confidence, which is one of the less attractive (and very sad and troubling) Scottish traits, and about money and inspiring films to have led the way.
So much of Scottish film is just so damned depressing that it would make you slit your wrists. When I watch a film like “Sweet Sixteen,” I don’t want to ‘understand’ the drug dealer characters or junkies to ‘empathize’ with them – I want to fucking kill them as being the scum who are ruining this country and who do things like wake my parents up in their bedroom at home at 6am whilst stealing from them for their next fix. If I want ‘social realism’ all I have to do is – literally – open my front door and I’m living on the set of some middle class director’s dysfunctional ‘cinema verite’ wet dream.
Like you Yanks, we Scottish grew up on fare from Hollywood and beyond, and occasionally like a wee bit of escapism on our screens big and small. Believe it or not. Much as I admire the talent of directors like Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsay (whose next arty dead kid epic “The Lovely Bones” will kill her career stone dead if she makes it, as it looks like yet another money-loser from her), I am heartily fucking sick of seeing the worst corners of Scottish life on the big screen. I truly do not understand why Scottish directors think they need to have a socialist agenda (apart from the fact that Mullan is an active member of the Scottish Socialist Party, which explains him at least) when making films.
(We’ll get back to the film event eventually, I promise you.)
To me, Scottish films with some sort of socialist agenda do not change anything. They merely offer more psychic pollution to add to the pool that is out there. I have an ex-junkie cousin who swears blind that “Trainspotting” is the reason that he and some of his friends started taking heroin, and there was an epidemic after it. He may be right; I dunno. What I do know is that I would never have been asked if I had tried heroin (for the record: no: I despise heroin and everything about it) if it wasn’t for that shabbily-scripted piece of shit and the negative reputation it has given Scotland on the world stage. Middle class America’s main frame of reference for Scotland seems to be “Trainspotting,” with tourists visiting here going on about how ‘cool’ it is. They seem to see the whole country as a bunch of worthless smackheads, which is an incredibly ill informed and condescending attitude.
Am I exacerbating that opiate-contorted funhouse mirror image here? I dunno. “Trainspotting” as a film had no socialist agenda; it was just a ‘bad boys’ film with a terrible script by an untalented middle class doctor. And let’s get one thing straight here. Class – working, middle, upper, no – is no indicator of talent. But I still find it extremely odd that the literary and poetic renaissance in Scotland in recent years has not been seen up on the screen. So I have to conclude that it is still a matter of the people who have the money getting to make the films. And they seem to think that the working class wants to see films about people like them in dire poverty and misery and heroin addiction and alcoholism.
The financial films-for-the-well-off agenda seemed to be borne of the accents I heard in the crowd (see, told you I’d get back to the film seminar eventually, all just a matter of patience). They were mostly middle class English, with one or two other nationalities thrown in for good (or bad) measure. But…no Scottish people. One vocal Brazilian guy kept on going on about ‘gorilla’ filmmaking and I kept getting flashbacks to “Planet of The Apes.” And yes, I know what he meant, and I’m mocking him for his accent, and hey, that’s bad crack, but it was still funny.
In one sense, that is.
That accent cross-section actually accurately reflects Edinburgh. It’s a very wealthy city, and it’s not for people without money. Glasgow has a more vibrant film scene, but it’s still disheartening to hear all those accents without a Scot among them. It vexed me, played on my nerves. Cos you know, who are these people, where do they come from, why are they here and why should they get all the chances at making films?
Well, there was one Scot who asked a question.
I mentioned the lack of Scottish accents in the crowd, saying I didn’t mean to be parochial and that obviously reflected the cosmopolitan nature of Edinburgh. Danielsen facetiously apologized for not having a Scottish accent, and I said, “Hey, we can’t all be perfect.” Ever the storm in the eye of the calm, but I was on bestest behavior. I said that I grew up watching everything from “Dawn of The Dead” to every arthouse-to-grindhouse flickershow you could imagine, and wanted to know if there were schemes where young kids from, say, Falkirk High, my old High School, could learn filmmaking. I was assured there were.
But I still don’t buy it.
The story continues in part three of TALES FROM THE FESTSIDE>>>
Posted on June 20, 2003 in Festivals by Graham Rae
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