Three re­ward­ing paths in a strand of Scots movie-mak­ing

The Herald - Arts - - OPINION - KEITH BRUCE

FILM-MAKER Karen Guthrie wrote about it in The Her­ald Mag­a­zine a fort­night ago, so I hope many of you were prompted to take the op­por­tu­nity to see her beau­ti­ful and pro­found per­sonal doc­u­men­tary The Closer We Get on BBC2 Scot­land last Satur­day evening. She be­gan the project to tell the story of how her fam­ily was af­fected by the dis­cov­ery that her fa­ther had se­cret child and an­other part­ner in Dji­bouti, in East Africa, but af­ter her mother suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing stroke and her fa­ther re­turned to the fam­ily to help care for her, it ac­quired an­other di­men­sion al­to­gether.

As her mother died be­fore it was com­pleted, it has be­come, on one level, a memo­rial to her – and es­pe­cially to the wit she dis­plays on screen in the face of her dis­abil­ity. If you missed it, you can still catch up via the BBC iPlayer for an­other two weeks, and the film will be avail­able as a DVD and video on de­mand are avail­able from Au­gust 31 via www. the­closer­ I whole-heart­edly rec­om­mend that you do not miss it.

It is, of course, a quite sin­gu­lar and unique piece of work – how could it be oth­er­wise? – and yet I was also struck by sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Guthrie’s movie and oth­ers I have seen, and ad­mired, re­cently, all of them made on a low bud­get in Scot­land. On Au­gust 16 at The Hub, as part of the new “con­tem­po­rary mu­sic” strand Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Fer­gus Line­han has in­tro­duced, there is a chance to see Where You’re Meant To Be, singer and song­writer Ai­dan Mof­fat’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with film­maker Paul Fe­gan, fol­lowed by a live set from Mof­fat. Fe­gan’s movie is also exquisitely crafted, and, like Guthrie’s, be­came some­thing else in the course of its cre­ation.

Mof­fat brought his re­worked Scots songs to the at­ten­tion of Sheila Ste­wart, the last re­main­ing mem­ber of a trav­el­ling fam­ily re­spected as keep­ers of the tra­di­tional mu­sic canon, and re­ceived a ro­bust and some­what scathing re­cep­tion – so much so that the film be­comes, on one level, a memo­rial to Ste­wart, a for­mer re­cip­i­ent of a Her­ald An­gel award for her work at the Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val, who did not live to see the com­pleted film.

Both of those films some­how also chimed in my mind with The Pos­si­bil­i­ties Are End­less, Ed­ward Lovelace and James Hall’s doc­u­men­tary about for­mer Orange Juice front­man Ed­wyn Collins, whose cre­ative me­mory was ef­fec­tively wiped by a stroke.

Tak­ing their ti­tle from one of the two phrases he could say when he awoke af­ter the trauma (the other be­ing the name of his wife, Grace Maxwell), Lovelace and Hall’s im­pres­sion­is­tic movie makes the most of both the Helms­dale lo­ca­tion to which the cou­ple moved, and, of course, mu­sic, that be­ing the stuff of Collins’s life and the fuel of his re­cov­ery.

It would be daft to sug­gest that these three con­sti­tute any sort of a school of film-mak­ing, but the fluid way in which they tell there sto­ries might point to one re­ward­ing 21st cen­tury di­rec­tion for the art­form.

It is also patently ob­vi­ous that none dis­plays any need of a vast stu­dio, which some peo­ple seem to think is es­sen­tial to the fu­ture of the in­dus­try in Scot­land, de­spite the fact that the best con­tem­po­rary Scot­tish films re­volve around great lo­ca­tion work and clever use of com­puter soft­ware.

Oddly, the three have an on­screen Her­ald con­nec­tion too. There is a cameo from Karen Guthrie’s brother Sean, a col­league, in her film, and mu­sic writer Ni­cola Meighan ap­pears in Fe­gan’s film. And grey­beards like my­self re­call Grace Maxwell in our ad­ver­tis­ing de­part­ment when she be­gan see­ing the Post­card­la­bel star.

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