Take One Action. Be inspired. Be the inspiration.

be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world

by Kevin Williamson

As an unashamed film buff there’s something that’s been bugging me for years: Where are all the independently produced feature-length documentaries made in Scotland?  Three years ago Anthony Baxter produced an absolute beauty with the internationally acclaimed You’ve Been Trumped.  Based in Edinburgh, but connecting with people all over the world, Mark Cousins is revolutionising the personal cinematic essay. There’s the collaborative effort of Scotland Yet – a feature film on our journey to the referendum. There’s the brilliant work of Nick Higgins who directed We Are Northern Lights. But these are the exceptions that illustrate a more general absence.

Let’s put it another way. Where are all the clever, insightful documentary movies based on important Scottish essay books such as Lesley Riddoch’s Blossom or Andy Wightman’s The Poor Had No Lawyers or George Davie’s The Democratic Intellect or Mike Small’s Scotland’s Local Food Revolution?  Do we really have to wait for the BBC to bother their backsides?  Who will make these films? You? Me? Any takers? That’s the context I’d like to place the fantastic Take One Action documentary film festival.  As a call to action.

ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE

A new wave of documentary film-makers are recording, informing and connecting the many millions of activists working to make the world a better place to live in.  From the big budget brilliance of Michael Moore to thousands of lesser known or localised works, documentary film has come into its own in the last two decades and is increasingly used as an essential and accessible tool of global enlightenment and democratic self-education.

Timed fortuitously to come on the back of our Indy referendum the 8th Take One Action Film Festival explores the idea that Another World Is Possible through a diverse programme of world-class documentary cinema.

Artistic Director Simon Bateson has curated a wee gem of a festival.  Diverse, inspiring and relevant: it would be impossible to come away from these events not bursting with ideas. Following each movie are audience discussions with a chance to share ideas or connect with others who want to take personal or communal action.

Below are some of the highlights.  The full programme of events can be accessed at the Take One Action website.  Screenings are at Edinburgh Filmhouse, GFT and CCA.

EVERYDAY REBELLION (Dir: Arash & Arman T. Riahi, Austria, Switz, Germany) 2013

“If you want to defeat a boxer, challenge him to a game of chess.” An exploration of playful rebellion and non-violence resistance from England, Ukraine and Syria to the US, Iran and Spain.

“This intelligent film proves it is the smaller, more personal stance that can ultimately make the bigger difference.”  The Guardian

Filmhouse:  Fri 26 Sep, 1pm. £5/£3.50

INEQUALITY FOR ALL (Dir:  Jacob Kornbluth, USA) 2013

The 3 richest families in Scotland own more wealth than the bottom 20% of the population (Source: Oxfam report). Robert Reich, a former Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration of the 90s, forensically dissects the socially corrosive effects of inequality and explains why the status quo is not sustainable.  Essential viewing for everyone who has joined a political party in the last week.

“Persuasive and accessible, a gentle but urgent clarion call to action’  Toronto Star

Filmhouse: Fri 26 Sep, 8.30pm. £8.20/£6

CCA:  Thur 24 Sep. 7.30pm. £5/£4

THE REVOLUTIONARY OPTIMISTS (Dir: Nicole Newnham & Maren Grainger-Monsen, USA) 2013

In the face of dismal social conditions and adult resignation kids in Kolkata choose to fight back. Filmed over several years a camera crew follow Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer turned community educator, who works with local children in Kolkata who use imagination and determination to build their own slow, joyful revolution to empower and transform their communities.

“Most people could learn a lot from these little activists” Washington Post

Filmhouse: Sun 28 Sep, 8.30pm.  £8.20/£6

GFT: Sat 27 Sep, 3.15pm. £5

SALT OF THE EARTH (Dir: Herbert J Biberman, USA) 1954

A pioneering social documentary, banned in the USA for a decade, follows a community of striking zinc miners in New Mexico. Following a debilitating accident American and Mexican workers join forces to oppose safety cuts and what emerges is an inspiring story of how the balance of power in the dispute shifts in favour of the strikers when the miners’ wives get involved.  After the screening a discussion will explore the legacy of the 84-85 miners strike, in particular the role of women in the movement.

“Has a strong claim to being the most ambitious American film ever made” The Guardian

Filmhouse: Tues 30 Sep, 8.30pm. £8.20/£6

GFT:  Thur 2 Oct, 6pm. £5

MILLIONS CAN WALK (Dir:  Christoph Schaub & Karmal Musale, Switz) 2013

After years of land grabs and destructive infrastructure projects in 2012 hundreds of thousands of Adivasis, India’s aborigines, embarked on an epic peace march to Delhi demanding a life of dignity. This inspiring film shines a fascinating light into the philosophy of non-violent resistance at the heart of their march.

Filmhouse:  Thur 25 Sep, 8.30pm. £8.20/£6

CCA:  Sat 27 Sep, 7.30pm. £5/£4

+ CLAIRE LAMOND

There are no Scottish-produced feature films at the festival. There is, however, SEAMS AND EMBERS, a 6 min stop-motion animation by the incredibly talented Claire Lamond, where a Scottish miner reflects on younger days up to the closure of Scottish coal mines in the 1980s.  It will be screened before SALT OF THE EARTH.



Categories: Commentary, Film and Animation

Tags: , , ,

21 replies

  1. Structures to enable funding of the arts, press, TV and media should noo be a top priority for all who share a vision.

  2. Looking for or relying on funding is a fool’s errand. Make it homespun, but make Whatever it is.

    • Sure, but many are desperate to see channels open up enabling funding to be directed towards like minded individuals/companies. The days of giving cash blindly to those who oppose your view of the world are over.

  3. Good stuff Kevin. Direction. Talent. Focus energy. I see so so much talent in our country every day yet the tv channels reflect so little of this. You would think we were a colony who were meant to be brainwashed by Britishness daily.The mentalscape world of the media reflects nothing of my life or aspiratins. Indeed it seeks to kill its vitality………

  4. I would like to see a series of documentaries on countries that have taken their independence. What worked, what didnt. This could have alleviated some of the fearful No’s.

  5. Agree with you there, Kevin, but since most Scottish filmmakers are, like me, ineligible from accessing Creative Scotland’s Screen Fund (see their T&Cs) it’s a hard ask. The situation isn’t helped either by the fact that we’ve waited on a conclusion to their Film Sector Review for two years while the media crows on about a studio that, even if they built one, no homegrown filmmaker could ever afford to use. Oh, and btw my own film, The Devil’s Plantation, cited as the best Scottish film of 2013 at this year’s EIFF Film Summit, was self-funded to the tune of £750.

    • Know of it but not seen it yet. Any screenings due?

      KW

      • Cheers for asking. Good question – perhaps one that ought to be directed at CS and every publicly subsidised cinema and arts venue in Scotland. There’s only one screening coming up – at the Birks Cinema, Aberfeldy on Nov 2 as part of a small festival – a fluke invitation. I’d be happy to show it anywhere but with no industry endorsement it’s a struggle. If anyone out there would like to show it, please get in touch.

      • MMT – Thanks for info on screening on 2 Nov. Its always tricky for me on a Sunday as I have the kids but will try and get up to Aberfeldy if its at all possible. Your website is/was an absolute gem of social documentation. For anyone not seen it its here… http://www.devilsplantation.co.uk/blog/ however it comes with a warning. Hours might pass!

        KW

    • “Most Scottish filmmakers are, like me, ineligible from accessing Creative Scotland’s Screen Fund (see their T&Cs)” How come? I looked for their T&Cs but couldn’t find them

  6. In answer to Kevin Williamson – there is a sequel to “You’ve Been Trumped”. It’s called “A Dangerous Game” and “is the jaw-dropping sequel to the award-winning You’ve Been Trumped.” [Borrowed from our “Tripping Up Trump” Facebook page.]

  7. Don’t worry Kevin, the inspiration seed was planted last Friday morning. As far as I can gather thousands of likeminded people are bravely coming to the table and offering their individual talents to be used for the good of us all. Your desire will be fulfilled as it is a necessity. Might take a wee while as there are other priorities to be sorted out first. You have definitely started the ball rolling though.

  8. Why would anyone in their right mind want to watch films about Mexican and American miners or Adivadsis marching on Delhi?
    We have E entertainment. The Kardashians, Rich kids of LA, Red Carpet, Fashion Police, Guillianna and Bill, and a whole host of other thought provoking reality programmes!
    I am joking, of course. But the sad fact is, that more money is spent on Kim Kardashians arse in one week, than is spent on all independent documentaries in a year.
    And the sadder fact is, that people actually watch this shite! Which is OK, I guess, for some light entertainment, but FFS, more people watch Corry of a night than voted in the referendum!
    My wife, who is Iranian, thinks Corry is how life is lived in the UK?.
    I tell her, “No, dear. It’s worse than that”
    I think I may have invented a slogan there.
    The UK?

    • I’ve watched more Iranian movies in the last year than episodes of Eastenders, Corry, Britains Got Talent, and Strictly all added up together. And I think I’ve got the better deal. With these docs though its different from soaps in that its about self-education rather self-flagellation.

      KW

      • I’m not sure about self-flagellation having watched the Ashura marches in Teheran 🙂
        It’s certainly hard to find a programme on tv that’s worth watching. I toyed with the History channel for a while before realising how biased that was!
        It also didn’t surprise me when Press tv was banned in the UK. Is it still? It hah some good alternative views, shall we say. As does RTV.
        We move back to Scotland in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the docs you mentioned.

  9. Off topic – Spouse adamant that referendum ballot paper was blank on the back, any images online to show what the front/back of the ballot paper should have looked like?

    You sure? Yes I am sure kind of conspiracy situation. 🙂

  10. Very interesting. Essentially what you do is apply for EU funding to put on an event that lasts for say a week to ten days. You can also crowdfund it, or have a party at the end and make money to help fund the next one. The concept would be to encourage project based prototyping. Under the umbrella of “Media Art”, leaves it open ended in scope. Essentially you give it a name each year, sort of narrowing down scope to a wide concept. Media art can be anything hand made, anything digital based. It can involve anything from product design, film making, installations, social media, photography…..the object is to explore via chaos and through chaos comes structure. Chaos being free thought to explore ideas and concepts, whatever they may be.

    So you would need a venue, say an old factory where participants pay to have access to the space and possibly for breakfast and lunch.

    100 people pay £100 and that at least gives you a 10k budget to work with outwith possible EU funding or whatever else may be available.

    It would essentially be where ideas can be traded for technical expertise in say, scriptwriting/producing a documentary, with say an illustrator, camera crew, sound designers. What often happens, by having a communal living/working space for say 14 hours a day, people have time to network and create.

    You can have dj’s, live musicians, bands to have informal parties or cultural events at night to encourage networking in an informal way. So ideas form, like minded people get together and the event can also involve network talks and discussions. You can pull in people from industry such as film making to present said talk.

    Anyone can get access to gear to make a documentary film, but you save a lot of time and money having a community that brings the gear together, with particiapants who specialize in areas of expertise.Such as sound, filmcraft, lighting, but the main driving force is always going to be the story.

    So you would want participants to apply giving background on their skills, experience and some form of a project proposal, even though that is allowed to change once you get their.

    So a space where people can network, create and present, where ideas can blossom and not be “forced” is where we can essentially educate and develop a community where documentary films could be just a part of the creative output.

  11. Upcoming documentary on women activists in the indyref: http://www.andthenyouwin.com/

  12. Kevin, I’m not worried about the feature length documentaries, it’s the lack of short 5 min docs that’s more worrying.

    The great Dr E.O Wilson, an American biologist (who i once had the great pleasure of meeting, and whom David Attenborough has called the greatest influence on his career) tells us to worry when big species come under threat, but to really worry when the smaller species, like ants start to disappear for then we know we are in big trouble.

    Likewise with documentary, I’d rather see 250 people making short 5 min films as exercises in storytelling, the most overlooked aspect of film making than making half botched ‘feature docs’ that only merit the claim ‘feature’ due to their directors inability to edit.

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