TALES FROM THE FESTSIDE

Why then isn’t Scottish youth (or even normal Scottish society) seeing itself reflected up on the big screen, except in trash like “Late Night Shopping,” which was filmed in Glasgow (made purposefully not to look like the city) and half the characters weren’t Scottish anyway? Where are the kids writing scripts who are having their stuff made? Where are the kids who can write feature films? Where are the feature films and their funding? Do they all have to do tedious ‘worthy’ films to get cash? It’s an argument that could go round and round and never get anywhere. Cos talk is cheap, and film ain’t. Maybe DV will bring about a change. We’ll see.
So the event finished and I walked outside to talk to Penny.
And Shane Danielsen walked up with his girlfriend.
Now, as I said, I felt somewhat uneasy about this, in that I hadn’t seen him since I wrote that searing, screaming piece. And I knew he knew who I was, because he stopped on purpose.
“You know, when I heard that note of Scottish nationalism, I said, I bet that’s Graham Rae,” he said. I was thinking “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy,” as the late great Kenneth Williams put it in Carry on Cleo. So now I knew he’d actually read the article, and he knew who I was. But he did not seem angry. However, an apology did seem to be in order from me, in that a couple of the things I did say were a wee bit out of order. So I said sorry, and that the piece had come at the end of an unhappy year for me.
Danielsen then surprised me when he told me he hadn’t been offended at all (me of course saying “Well, I did try,” ever the diplomat) and that my story had been his favorite article on the festival. I said that it was the only one that had mentioned The Dwarves, and that other articles were thin on the ‘San Francisco scumpunk’ front. He said yeah, he’d noticed that, but it was obvious that he had no idea whatsoever what I was talking about at that moment. Not surprising, as it made no sense at all. Like I said, I was a wee bit nervous. I then offered to buy him a drink and he, unsurprisingly, said no and wandered off.
Now. How weird is that?
There are two ways I can look at what he said. One is that he is so used to sycophantic crap that my completely honest, halitosis-tainted rant was a breath of fresh to him and he genuinely liked it. Or the other is that he’d had long enough to think about meeting me in the future, and how to react if he did. And he’d played it super-cool and totally negated the insult by saying it didn’t offend him at all, thus rendering it completely impotent. It certainly wouldn’t have been like anything else written about the festival that year (or probably any other) that’s for sure. I don’t know. His reaction came as a total – and pleasant – surprise. For obvious reasons.
Like I said, I had always suspected the man had a sense of humor about him, even if he is an EIFF director. And he proved it with his reaction, which was actually very cool and the exact right one to have. He did not lower himself, and retained his dignity. Very stylish. And he has gone way up in my estimations (for what that’s worth) after that, and gained a great deal of respect from me. Even if he is Australian.
So let me just say one thing to you, Shane. If I see you at the festival this year and offer to buy you a drink, it’s not because I want to brown-nose you or be your bestest buddy. You know that’s not my style. It’s because I think you have class and reacted impeccably. I said what I felt in that article, and don’t really feel all that apologetic about most of it, as I suspect you know (and maybe even feel the same way about some of the things I said), but it veered off beyond the pale on a couple of occasions.
And hey. You’re not an ‘adopted Brit’ as you mentioned during the film event. You’re an ‘adopted Scot’. There is a vast difference, cos that antediluvian ‘Great Britain’ and ‘United Kingdom’ garbage just don’t cut it no more. ‘Strident nationalism’? Why not. This is my country, after all. And you’re welcome in it. Just so long as you keep programming decent films, that is. And if you invite Kathleen McDermott back again this year. Cos she’s a total wee goddess, likesay.
After that oddly cheerful meeting, I went upstairs in the UGC cinema hosting the event and had a few glasses of free wine. Some short filmmaker (Scottish!) came up to me and started talking about zombie films and Fangoria magazine because I had mentioned “Dawn of The Dead” during my question. Stick me in a room full of people and I will find the gorehound, guaranteed.
His friend came up and, after apologizing for sounding English “but really being Scottish”, told me I had the “anger of a Paul Schrader” (I said “without all the family members that have shot themselves in the head, I hope”) and that I should write a film script. I mused on writing a film about a pissed-off bus driver or something, but soon shelved the idea. Dunno if having the anger of a Schrader is a good thing or not. Certainly wouldn’t wanna be related to him, that’s for sure. Or own a gun if I was.
After a conversation about rare Bill Hicks videos and CDs with another friend of Zombieman’s, I decided it was time to go (the free bar having been exhausted) and, saying my goodbyes, I walked out into the suddenly much less dark Edinburgh night. What an odd evening, and what a turn-up for the books Danielsen’s reaction had been. I chuckled about it and shook my head as I wandered down to the train station. And I will make damned sure that a couple of local Falkirk High Schools know about any filmic initiatives that their pupils could get involved in – cos I will contact them myself.
I am looking forward to the EIFF this year. My 16th consecutive year seeing films there and, hopefully, program permitting, the best one yet.
But that still remains to be seen.
Onwards…




Posted on June 20, 2003 in Festivals by
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