Carmody Wilson, 'A chance to see how Scots are projected' (The Herald, 19/02/2008)

Public telephones all over Scotland must again face an uncertain future as BT makes plans to cull the herd of underused boxes, but there’s one small village that’s sure to keep its big red box: Pennan in Aberdeenshire. Twenty- five years after the release of Local Hero, Pennan, known in the film as Furness, still keeps tourists coming. The film, which is faring just as well, is being screened at the Glasgow Film Festival as part of its Great Scots! Celebration of Scottish film-making.

The themes for Great Scots! Are vast and varied and the films span the decades from silent cinema of the 1920s to brand-new and experimental. Charles Henri Belleville’s The Inheritance, winner of the Raindance trophy at last year’s Independent British Cinema Awards, explores filial relationships through tow brothers, Fraser and David, who travel from Edinburgh to Skye in search of their inheritance from their dead father.

On the other end of the narrative line is Glasgow artist Craig Mulholland. Backed by the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, Mulholland will give a free talk and present his latest work, Peer to Peer, exhibiting as part of his Grandes et Petites Machines at the Mackintosh Gallery. Oliver Twist, a silent film directed by Glaswegian Frank Lloyd, and Consenting Adults, a movie celebrating 50 years since the Wolfenden Report on homosexuality, round out the selections. The inclusion of these films as falling under one banner begs the question: What do they have in common? The answer is simply that they are Scottish, have a Scottish actor in the lead or are made by Scots.

Already fabled in the independent circuit for its ingenuity, honest storytelling and “guerrilla” filming techniques, The Inheritance was shot for £11,000 in February last year. It has been praised as “independent film-making at its most exciting,” and its young director has been making waves since its release.

Belleville, whose previous directing credits consist of a short film and the making-of documentary for the misguided thriller Waz, has industry types and audiences talking, not least of all because he is only 24 years old. The screening of the Inheritance for the festival will be introduced by Belleville and shown with his 2006 short film, An Affair with Terence Stamp.

Consenting Adults, starring the needle-nosed king of gravitas, Charles Dance, as John Wolfenden, explores the conflict between social conscience and personal connections in the 1950s. Wolfenden is asked to chair a committee considering the decriminalisation of homosexuality, a topic which is close to home, as his son, (played by Sean Biggerstaff) has come out of the closet. Biggerstaff won a Bafta for his performance as Jeremy Wolfenden.

In Local Hero, the small village of Furness is up-ended when an American, (Peter Riegert) comes to town with instructions from his boss (Burt Lancaster) to lay the ground work for an oil refinery. Denis Lawson is homey as the publican/ accountant for the village, and Peter Capaldi is a soft, young oil buccaneer who swoons rather than swears.

The silver anniversary screening of Local Hero at the festival is well-deserved, not least for what the film has done for the tourism industry, but the link with the other Great Scots! Films is tenuous, especially compared with the other strands of this year’s GFT. The inclusions are individually interesting, but ultimately they are a) an indie that’s done the circuit, b) a television film c) a silent movie which time (and cinema-goers) has forgotten d) a modern art piece, and e) a very popular cross-over film made 25 years ago. If the Glasgow Film Festival is to give Scottish cinema its due, more careful curation is needed.

  • Great Scots! Begins with Oliver Twist and The Inheritance at the GFT on Sunday. Local Hero is screened at the GFT on Sunday, February 24.