Curated by Transgressive North, the Folk Film Gathering is the world’s first folk film festival, screening films that celebrate the lived experiences of communities worldwide. Each annual edition explores the relationships between cinema and other traditional arts (such as oral storytelling and folk song), discovering what a folk cinema has been at moments throughout world film history, and how it may look in the future.
NEXT FESTIVAL - 2022
PROGRAMME COMING SOON
Set in precolonial Africa during the time of the Mossi Empire, Gaston Kaboré’s feature debut follows the story of Wend Kuuni, a young boy who has lost the ability to speak. Found lying near-dead in the dirt, Wend Kuuni is adopted by local villagers and given a new home. Underneath his new life, however, lies a deep, unspoken trauma. With the help of his playful adopted sister Pughneere, will Wend Kuuni be able to face the darkness in his past, and find his voice again? The first feature film to be made in Burkina Faso, ‘Wend Kuuni’ draws from African oral tradition to create a powerful cinematic fable.
Wend Kuuni was presented with the kind support of Africa in Motion.
In a moment of remarkable cinematic continuity, ‘Buud Yaam’ picks up the story of Wend Kuuni and his adopted sister Pughneere 14 years later, featuring the same actors and locations as Gaston Kaboré’s debut feature. Whilst nearly two decades have passed, Wend Kuuni is still ill at ease in his adopted home and remains a source of tension within his community. When Pughneere is struck down by a mysterious illness, Wend Kuuni is faced with a perilous journey across Africa to find the only man who can save her. Drawing on a masterful use of colour, camera work and landscape, ‘Buud Yam’ is one of the great films of world cinema.
Buud Yam was presented with the kind support of Africa in Motion.
After the failure of their last strike, Asturian mine workers are faced between a critical choice between apathy or action. Elisa Cepedal’s debut feature documentary chronicles a powerful history of resistance among the mining communities of Asturias, an autonomous region of Northern Spain separated from the inner plateau by the Canatabrian Mountains. Adopting a daring, innovative approach to cinematic form that mixes aspects of observational documentary with a formally playful approach, Cepedal’s powerful film explores a community negotiating the decline of its core industry.
Hired as a sound technician to find and record places free of manmade sounds, a young man (Eoghan Mac Giolla Bhríde) travels back to Ireland for the first time in 15 years, finding himself drawn back to the mountains, bogs and lakes of Connemara where he grew up. Through a series of conversations and encounters Eoghan is drawn back to a place of deep personal significance. Blurring the boundary between documentary and fiction, Pat Collins’ meditative feature explores a powerful sense of place, and the deeply- rooted relationship between a young man and the landscape around him.
On August 24th 1984 - six months into the British miners’ strike - 2000 policemen descended on a small colliery village in County Durham with the aim of getting one man across the picket line. The community of Easington thus found themselves under occupation. Thirty-five years later, the latest film by Tyneside’s Amber Collective looks back upon the events of 1984-85, focussing in particular on the efforts of a number of remarkable women to keep Easington fed during the miner’s strike. Using photography, archive footage and contemporary interviews with community members, Amber explore what happened through the eyes and words of the community. Framing the past within the present, ‘What Happened Here’ is a powerful testament to the dignity, resilience and solidarity of a community under unimaginable pressure.
In Celtic mythology, a selkie is a seal that can shed its skin to become human. A magical cinematic reimagining of selkie stories, ‘The Secret of Roan Inish’ tells the story of Fiona, a young girl who is sent to live with her grandparents in the 1940s, in their small Irish fishing village. There she hears the story of her long-lost brother Jamie, who was stolen by the sea and now lives with the seals. As Fiona wades deeper into the secrets of her past, will she unravel the mystery of Roan Inish and reunite her family? A sublime work of magical realism, John Sayles’ film is one of the great folk tales of world cinema.
In Michelangelo Frammartino’s near wordless first feature, an elderly farmer befriends a woman believed by her family to be possessed, in a small, ageing community in which young people are slowly disappearing to the city. Finding moments of luminous beauty in the rhythms and routines of a community life, ‘Il Dono’ masterfully blurs the boundary between drama and documentary. Led by a cast of non-actors, and driven by the same visionary poetry and humour that Frammartino later brought to the award- winning Il Quattro Volte, ‘Il Dono’ is a gentle yet profound look at the gradual depopulation of a small town in the Calabrian Mountains.
“We are each one of us individuals [and yet] we are all of us members of society”.
Spanning half a century, celebrated American folklorist Henry Glassie has dedicated his life’s work to illuminating the folk art made by communities around the world. Part- portrait of Glassie and part-meditation upon his work, Field Work is an immersive and meditative film set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists across Brazil, Turkey, North Carolina and Ireland. Lyrical and moving, Pat Collins resonant documentary seeks ultimately to illuminate the ‘inescapable complexity’ Glassie saw between the community and the individual.
A BBC film crew is interviewing what they consider to be a typical Catholic family in the Divis Flats in Belfast when the news comes in a child known to the family has been hit by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier. The British army, however, contests this version of events. Back in London, the producer and researcher editing the footage wrestle with how to present the incident, and with their responsibility to the family they filmed. The first fiction feature to be made under the British Workshop Declaration of the 1980s, ‘Acceptable Levels’ is a powerful meditation the ethics of filmmaking with working class communities, and presents a still-resonant critique of the mainstream media.
65-year old music critic Clara (Sônia Braga) is the last remaining resident of the Aquarius building in Recife. Strong-willed and defiant, Clara has survived cancer and the death of her husband, yet now faces another battle when property developers seek to remove her from her apartment. Who will win the battle of wills that ensues? A celebration of powerful womanhood and a resonant critique of urban gentrification, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s (‘Neighbouring Sounds’, ‘Bacurau’) second feature is a rich, humorous tale of survival and resistance.
Drawing from Inuit oral culture and a story he first heard from his mother, Zacharius Kunuk’s Camera D’Or-winning debut feature is an epic narrative of a community confronting an ancient evil. Atanarjuat is the fastest runner in Igloolik, who finds himself falling in love with the gentle Atuat. Yet Atuat is betrothed to Uki, a dangerous young man whose family has become corrupted by a terrifying darkness. Ultimately the rivalry between Atuat and Uki will lead to a hazardous chase across the Canadian Arctic, and to a climactic reckoning wherein the community must come together to face its past. Made collectively by Isuma TV with local communities in Igloolik, ‘Atanarjuat’ is powerful statement of Inuit vitality and dignity, and a visionary work of cinema.
Made collectively with the Imider community in southeast Morocco, Nadir Bouhmouch’s rousing documentary chronicles a courageous act of community resistance. In 2011, the women, men and children of the indigenous Amazigh community of Imider in rural Morocco came together to shut down the water pipeline to Africa’s biggest silver mine, in order to stop it drying out the community’s almond groves and destroying their oasis. Filmed eight years later, Amussu follows the villagers as they consider an ongoing resistance cobbled together from the few means at their disposal: songs, weekly assemblies, a flimsy camera, a film festival and endless ingenuity.
live events: filmmakers 2021
Our 2021 online programme featured a series of live conversations between some of the world’s most significant filmmakers, who share certain aspects of perspective and approach to filmmaking. The discussions were based around the possibility of a people’s cinema. See the results below...
live events: MUSICIANS 2021
Alongside our filmmaker conversations and film screenings, The Folk Film Gathering 2021 featured a series of live conversations between musicians from different parts of the world, with connections to the filmmakers. These conversations featured songs, stories and discussions, and were hosted by the Traditional Music Forum’s David Francis.
Barry Barclay’s provocative, lyrical documentary focuses upon a rural community in New Zealand, led by charismatic indigenous activist Mikaera Miru, who stage a collective resistance when unsustainable commercial fishing practices start to endanger their local waters in the Kaipara Harbour. A moving testament to the power of community with a powerful resonance for debates around land reform and community land ownership in Scotland, Barry Barclay’s film invokes the sense of a Maori ‘hui’; a community gathering at which multiple voices come together to discuss who really owns the land.
This film was screened with the kind support of Ng Taonga Sound & Vision.
Nadir Bouhmouch | 2019 | 99 mins
In 2011, the Amazigh community in Imider (southeastern Morocco) shut down the water pipeline to Africa’s biggest silver mine to stop it drying out their almond groves and destroying their oasis. Shot in close collaboration with the community eight years later, Nadir Bouhmouch’s contemplative, poetic documentary follows the villagers as they consider an ongoing resistance cobbled together from the few means at their disposal: songs, weekly assemblies, a flimsy camera, a film festival and endless ingenuity.
Amber Collective | 2016 | UK | 86 mins
In 1987 the Amber Collective were the only British film crew allowed into the GDR, to document the lives of a fishing co-operative and a Brigade of Women Crane Drivers in Rostock, East Germany. 36 years later, Amber returned to track down the individuals they had first met in 1987, to find out how their lives had changed in the years since. A unique, powerful documentary which troubles many of the assumptions we have about the fall of the Berlin wall, ‘From Us to Me’ explores some of the many stories of ‘Die Wende’ (the turn), of the changes experienced by ordinary people during the collapse of the GDR. What was gained and what was lost?
This screening featured a live Q+A with Amber Collective.
In Kapuivik, north Baffin Island, Noah Piugattuk (Apayata Kotierk)’s nomadic Inuit band live and hunt by dog team just as his ancestors did. When the white man known as Boss arrives at Piugattuk’s hunting camp, what appears as a chance meeting soon opens up the prospect of momentous change. One of the highlights of the 2019 Toronto Film Festival and co-starring Killing Eve’s Kim Bodnia, Zacharius Kunuk’s new film is another masterful, poetic account of the challenges confronting indigenous communities in resisting the encroachments of Western society.
The last pits have closed, the redundancy money has been spent and the Elliot family is in crisis. 70-yr-old pigeon man Arthur is losing his allotment to the local authority’s coastal redevelopment scheme. Working as a trumpeter and club singer, his son Joe – a 40-yr-old ex-miner – is just about scraping a living, but increasingly struggling to hold his family together. Can he hold onto his relationship with his father, and his 10-yr-old son, Michael? Three generations struggle to come to terms with the past and to the ties that still bind them together in the powerful 2nd installment in the Amber Collective’s coalfields trilogy.
This screening featured a Q+A with Amber Collective, hosted by Will Higbee (University of Exeter).
Our musicians are from across Scotland, all responding to the festival's theme of 'collectivity under pressure'
Featuring contributions from Simone Caffari, George Duff, Iona Fyfe, Robbie Grieg, Catriona Hawksworth, Allan MacDonald, Megan MacDonald, Rachel Newton, Tom Oakes, Eileen Penman, Alasdair Roberts, Sally Simpson and more.
Film Ceilidh 2020
To accompany our screenings, we asked musicians from across Scotland to respond to the 2020 Folk Film Gathering's theme of 'collectivity under pressure'.
Watch performances from some of Scotland’s most celebrated traditional musicians, including Rachel Newton, Simone Caffari, George Duff, Iona Fyfe, Robbie Grieg, Catriona Hawksworth, Allan MacDonald, Megan MacDonald, Tom Oakes, Eileen Penman, Alasdair Roberts, Sally Simpson and more.
LIVE Event 2020:
Filmmaking and the
The director of the Folk Film Gathering, Jamie Chambers, explores how some of our films this year articulate the increasingly urgent importance of collective values.
David Francis, director of the Traditional Music Forum explores how communities in Scotland have fought to prioritise the collective over the communal in a specially commissioned essay for the Folk Film Gathering.
Members of the Amber Collective (Tynecastle) and Nadir Bouhmouch (Morocco) – whose films screened in the 2020 Folk Film Gathering – discuss the challenges and rewards of collective filmmaking, and committed engagements with communities.
The first in Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life, Pasolini’s ‘The Decameron’ weaves together a handful of tales by Giovanni Boccaccio into a dizzying, rhapsodic and bawdy celebration of humanity in all its contradiction and complexity. At turns erotic and playfully irreverent, ‘The Decameron’ tells the story of thieves, nuns, dimwitted husbands, murderers, martyrs and saints with verve, humour and Pasolini’s incomparable sense of cinematic poetry.
This screening was introduced with live music from Simone Caffari and followed by a discussion led by University of Edinburgh’s Pasquale Iannone.
‘To Sleep With Anger’ is a powerful mix of the mundane and the magical from one of America’s most underappreciated filmmakers. Gideon and Suzie are initially happy to see their old friend Harry when he turns up on their doorstep. They soon regret their offer of hospitality, however, when Harry’s arrival begins to exercise a strange, almost supernatural presence in the house. What exactly has Harry brought into the house with him, and will Suzie’s family survive it intact?
This screening was introduced with live music from Scots-Jamaican singer Brina.
An extra special event at the 2019 Folk Film Gathering: a one-time opportunity to see Alexander Dovzhenko’s magical ‘Zvenigora’ with a newly- commissioned score from Folklore Tapes, performed live for one performance only. Dovzhenko’s silent masterpiece follows an old man obsessively searching for the buried treasure of Zvenigora whilst his two grandsons find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter civil war. Folklore Tapes' score, commissioned specially for the Folk Film Gathering, explores some of the many resonances between Scottish and Ukranian folk culture.
This screening was presented in partnership with the Dovzhenko Centre.
After ‘Play Me Something’, Timothy Neat collaborated again with John Berger on Walk Me Home, a film that has not been seen in Edinburgh since 1993, which will screen here from a newly digitized version. Shot in Hamburg and Inchkenneth, and starring Berger with an appearance from the late, great Norman Maclean, ‘Walk Me Home’ is about love, imagination and comradeship, serving here as a timely celebration of Scotland’s connections with Europe.
This screening was introduced with traditional songs from Arthur Watson and followed by an audience discussion led by TRACS’ Donald Smith and University of Edinburgh’s Fraser MacDonald.
Based on a short story by Gogol (itself based upon a Ukranian folk tale), ‘Viy’ tells the playfully macabre tale of Khoma, a young anti-hero studying to be a philosopher within the local seminary. After a night of misadventure, Khoma finds himself forced to keep vigil for three nights by the body of a local witch he has wronged. Will he manage to keep his sanity (and his soul) as more terrifying apparitions appear each night? And can he survive an encounter with the fearsome Viy - whose mere name makes lesser demons tremble with fear? Reminiscent of the work of Sergei Parajanov and Sam Raimi, ‘Viy’ is a dizzying, rhapsodic trip through Ukranian folklore.
Winning Best Fairy Tale Film from Jean Cocteau’s jury at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival, ‘The White Reindeer’ is a dark, magical tale set within Scandinavia’s Sami community. Pirita, a young bride, grows lonely when her new husband Aslak is taken far away from home, overseeing his reindeer herd. Visiting the local shaman in the hopes of changing her fortunes, Pirita finds herself instead turned into a vampyric, shapeshifting white reindeer. Can she keep her secret from her community, or will she risk destroying the very things she loves the most?
A magical, blackly-comic story tinged with horror and superstition, ‘November’ tells the story of the unrequited love between Liina who yearns for Hans, and Hans who yearns for Luise. Will the dark powers of Estonia’s old ways give them both what they want? Or are some things best left alone? Werewolves, the Black Death and the Devil himself all appear in this visionary treatment of Estonian folktales that mixes the rhapsodic cinematic poetry of Sergei Parajanov with the deadpan absurdity of Roy Andersson.
A rare opportunity to see all 8 episodes of the seminal ITV adaption of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service on the big screen. Mixing folk tale, social commentary and young adult drama with a strong commitment to place, ‘The Owl Service’ follows Alison and her stepbrother Roger during their parents’ honeymoon in Wales. Together with Gwyn, the housekeeper’s son, Roger and Alison slowly find themselves drawn into the ancient Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd, Gronw and Lleu. Can the three manage to disentangle themselves before it’s too late, or is history doomed to repeat itself?
This screening was introduced with traditional harp music from Elinor Evans.
A rare opportunity to see the 1947 adaption of Neil Gunn’s Scots literary classic on the big screen in 16mm. Chronicling the hardships experienced by Highland communities in the wake of the clearances, ‘The Silver Darlings’ explores the life and loves of Catrine and her family and their changing fortunes as they are forced into the brutal herring fishing industry. A powerful tale of struggle and dispossession.
This screening was introduced with live traditional music from Rona Wilkie and Marit Falt.
The Amber Collective present ’T Dan Smith’, an experimental biopic of the infamous Newcastle City Council leader - a visionary, flawed and controversial politician, convicted of corruption in 1974. Showcasing the verve and social commitment that has made Amber one of the most significant forces in British cinema over the past 40 years, ’T Dan Smith’ is a compelling fusion of drama and documentary.
This screening was introduced with live folk songs from Sean Paul Newman, and followed by a Q&A with Amber’s Ellin Hare, Peter Roberts, and Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen. Presented in partnership with Bella Caledonia.
An adaptation of Alan Garner’s novel, ‘Red Shift’ explores uncanny resonances between three different time periods in English history: following a group of Roman invaders in the 2nd century, a siege during the English Civil War, and the story of young lovers in the present day. Based on the ballad of Tam Lin, ‘Red Shift’ tells three separate stories which all converge around Mow Cop castle in Cheshire.
This screening featured a special mini-concert from celebrated folk musician Alastair Roberts.
Traditional healer Soledad is bringing up her grandson Jose in a rural village whilst her daughter tries to find work in Mexico City. When her daughter makes plans to marry, Soledad is faced with a difficult choice: should Jose stay with her, or should he join his mother in the city? ‘In Times of Rain’ is a powerful story about women finding themselves caught between different experiences of life.
This screening was introduced with traditional Mexican songs from Carmen Moore and followed by a Q&A session with the director, Itandehui Jansen. Presented in partnership with Bella Caledonia.
Join us for the Folk Film Gathering’s annual film ceilidh, where we’ll be screening some of the short films of Wishaw’s under-sung queer, avant-garde pioneer Enrico Cocozza. Interspersed with newly composed music from Alun Woodward (Lord Cut-Glass), and stories and reminiscences from Cocozza’s friend Professor Joe Farrell (University of Strathclyde), join us for a magical-mystery tour through the imagination of one of Scotland’s most imaginative filmmakers, from the ghostly visitations of The White Lady to the punk, working-class provocations of Chick’s Day.
This event was hosted by TRACS’ Donald Smith.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of Norway’s silent cinema, ‘Laila’ is an epic love story following the fortunes of a young woman who finds herself torn between divided loyalties to Norway’s indigenous Sami community and the culture of her birth parents. Laila is presented here with a newly commissioned score from rising stars of the Scottish folk scene, Rona Wilkie and Marit Fält.
This screening was presented in partnership with Hippodrome Silent Film Festival.
The first film to be made by a female, indigenous filmmaker in Australia, Tracey Moffatt’s ‘BeDevil’ is a beguiling mix of folklore and personal experience from within Australia’s aboriginal community. Moffatt’s singular vision weaves together stories of invisible trains, the ghosts of American GIs and pot-luck picnics, set against a backdrop of colonisation and discrimination. A celebration of storytelling that explores the mysterious place of the past within the present.
This screening was introduced with stories from Australian storyteller Judy Paterson.
One of the first films to be made in the Gaelic language, ‘Seachd’ stars celebrated figures within Scotland’s Gaelic community in a tale about the passing down of stories from one generation to another. When Angus’ parents are killed trying to climb Skye’s Inaccessable Pinnacle, he is brought up by his grandfather, amongst the magical stories of the Gaidhealtachd: of the water horse, buried gold, of poisoned lovers. When his grandfather falls ill, Angus must confront what is just a story, and what is true.
This screening featured a special mini-concert from celebrated folk musician Rachel Newton.
One of the first folk horror films, ‘Penda’s Fen’ is a startling evocation of the deep echoes of the past within Worcestershire’s Malvern Hills. Through a series of real and imagined encounters with angels, demons and England’s pagan past, Stephen (a pastor’s son) begins to question his religion and politics whilst coming to terms with his sexuality.
This screening was introduced by a special 30-minute set from celebrated Scots folk musician Alasdair Roberts.
In Tuscan folklore, the Night of San Lorenzo (shooting stars) is when dreams come true. Set in 1944, the Taviani Brothers’ masterpiece documents the fortunes of a community one fateful night as they attempt to flee the Nazis. A powerful, deeply magical and surprisingly funny account of a community fighting for life.
This screening was introduced with Tuscan folk songs from Simone Caffari, and followed by a discussion hosted by Edinburgh University’s Pasquale Iannone.
Crowded, dirty, yet full of life, ‘the Lane’ is the only home Janie has ever known. But when the Cruelty Man arrives, bringing the threat of the dreaded orphanage, Janie’s contented childhood seems to be at an end. An adaption of Jessie Kesson’s Scots literary classic which explores growing up on the backstreets of 1920’s Aberdeen. From the team that would go on to make ‘Another Time, Another Place’.
This screening was introduced with Scots folk songs from the North East from Ruth Kirkpatrick.
An indigenous Alaskan remake of John Ford’s classic Western, ‘The Searchers’ relocates the action to the indigenous communities of the Canadian Arctic. Kuanana returns from a caribou hunt to find his wife and daughter have been kidnapped. Assisted by his father’s spirit helper, the loon Kallulik, he sets out into the Arctic wilds in pursuit of the kidnappers to bring his family home.
This screening was introduced with traditional music from Alaskan harpist Cheyenne Brown.
The first film to be made within the Sami community in Northern Scandinavia, this Oscar-nominated, epic adventure story is about a young boy’s attempts to bring justice to the men that murdered his family. Based on one of the few surviving Lapp legends (the director, Nils Gaup, himself a Lapp, heard it from his own grandfather), ‘Pathfinder’ is a thrilling coming-of-age tale about the timeless struggle between good and evil.
This screening was introduced with traditional Scandinavian music from Marit Falt.
An enchanting documentary about the life-long friendship between Swiss author Robert Crottet and spritely community matriarch Kaisa Gauriloff in Northern Scandinavia, celebrating the rich oral traditions of the Skolt Sami community in Finland. Directed by her great-granddaughter, Kaisa’s magical storytelling counterpoints the historical account of the Skolt Sami community fortunes in 20th century Europe.
This screening was introduced with Finnish folk music from Mike Ferrie.
A powerful, timely exploration of immigration and the rise of European right, ‘La Ville Est Tranquille’ masterfully weaves a narrative tapestry from the lives of a diverse group of Marseilles individuals. Set within the working class neighbourhood of L’Estaque, the paths of Michelle (a fish market worker), Paul (a dockworker turned cabdriver) and Abderamane (a young North African man just out of prison) converge on a journey through the lives and daily struggles of an entire city.
This screening was introduced with folk songs from Steve Byrne.
A rare chance to see Bill Bryden’s poetic portrait of the last days of life upon St Kilda. ‘Ill Fares the Land’ sensitively charts the daily lives of the last five families remaining on the island – through funerals, weddings and rites of passage – as they edge closer to the decision that will change their lives forever.
This screening was introduced with traditional Scots/Scandinavian folk songs from Rona Wilkie and Marit Falt.
Timothy Neat returns to the Folk Film Gathering to present his powerful, award-winning documentary ‘Hallaig’, exploring the life and work of the celebrated Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean. Featuring contributions from Seamus Heaney and Iain Crichton Smith, this is a powerful celebration of one of Scotland’s most pivotal cultural figures and the landscape which shaped him.
This screening was introduced by Gaelic poetry specialist John Stuart Murray and followed by an audience with the director, hosted by Donald Smith.
The pioneering documentary that launched the cine-verite movement paints a dizzying, breathless portrait of the lives of a diverse cross-section of Parisians in the summer of 1960. Taking their camera out into the streets of Paris to document the experiences of factory workers, students, immigrants and young holocaust survivors alike, Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin yield startling insights about the lives of diverse communities in Paris, to conjure a profound, sprawling meditation upon the nature of happiness.
This screening was introduced with Parisian chansons from Coreen Scott.
Amber return to the Folk Film Gathering with two documentaries about The Byker estate in Newcastle, based upon the work of celebrated photographer Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen. Featuring a highly topical exploration of the lives of immigrants to the UK, Amber’s films fuse memory, portraiture and music to document the changing experiences facing communities in inner city Newcastle.
These screenings were introduced with North England folk songs from Sean Paul Newman, and followed by a Q&A with Sirkka-Liisa Kontinnen and Peter Roberts.
A one-off event pitching the voices of some of Scotland’s most celebrated traditional musicians into conversation with a series of short, silent films from the National Library of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive. A glimpse into Scottish folk history, from crofting townships on Eriskay to Ayrshire mining villages, from Dawn Cine’s charged address to 1950s Glasgow.
The soundtrack was performed live by Glasgow’s Arthur Johnstone and Brian Miller, and Radio 2’s Folk Musician of the Year, Rachel Newton.
Hosted by Donald Smith, the Folk Film Gathering’s first ever film ceilidh explored the poetic, political and spiritual approaches to how we see place in Scottish cinema. The session mixed a series of short, experimental documentaries with songs from Traveller storyteller, Jess Smith, and contributions from Scottish writer and activist, Alastair McIntosh, and Glasgow University Lecturer and filmmaker, David Archibald.
A poetic hymn to the life of rural communities in Suffolk, charting the lives of three subsequent generations living and working on the land. Reminiscent of the films of Terence Malick, ‘Akenfield’ is a powerful exploration of the relationship between a farming community and the land amidst continuities and disruptions. Will Tom stay in Akenfield and continue the life his father and grandfather have led before him?
Featuring luminaries of the Scottish folk revival Norman Maclean, Sheila Stewart and Margaret Bennett, this lyrical cinematic fable explores the passing of songs from one generation to another. Ruadhan is an angry young man all too aware of changes in his community: there’s no more fish in the sea, the ceilidh house is shutting down, and the town is besieged by middle-class incomers’ intent on gentrification. Ruadhan stages a one man-stand: can he halt the unstoppable and save the soul of his community?
This screening was introduced by a live performance from folk-singer Margaret Bennett.
Based on the novel by Jessie Kesson, this unsung classic of Scottish cinema explores the tensions in a remote rural community during World War II. A shy housewife constrained by a loveless marriage and a life of hard labour, Janie’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of three Italian prisoners of war, awakening in her a new sense of passion and possibility. Featuring a wealth of Scots and Italian folk song, Oscar-nominated Michael Radford’s debut feature is a sensitive portrayal of conflicted experience within a close-knit rural community.
This screening was introduced by a live performance of folk songs from the East Coast of Scotland where the film was shot, sung by Steve Byrne (Malinky).
‘Barrovento’ is an exhilarating, rhapsodic mix of Brazilian folk custom and political drama. In village of Xaréu (Kingfish) fishermen, the return of the trickster Firmino stirs up underlying tensions. Firmino convinces the fishermen to rebel against their propertied masters, but are his motives pure? And will young lovers Naina and Arua be able to shake off the superstitions of their community to find happiness and together survive the oncoming storm?
This screening was introduced by live Brazilian folk song from Sarah Campbell and Mario Caribe.
A potent, exhilarating brew of folk song, film noir, and Italian neorealism. On the run from the law, small-time thief Francesca hides amidst a group of female workers in the Po Valley rice fields. Despite the back-breaking work, Francesca finds a new sense of camaraderie and community amongst her co-workers long missing in her life. But will she be able to hold onto her new-found footing when her violent boyfriend Walter reappears?
This screening was introduced by a live performance of Italian folk song from Simone Caffari, and was followed by Q&A with Edinburgh University’s Pasquale Iannone on the film and director. Supported by the Italian Cultural Institute in honour of Giuseppe De Santis’ centenary.
In 1935, the Scottish composer and clarsach player Heloise Russell-Ferguson traveled to Brittany to perform a set of Gaelic songs at this film’s premiere – the first Breton language film. Based on a Breton folk tale, ‘Chanson d’Armor’ is a lyrical and mythic portrayal of forbidden love within a fishing community. Join us as we recreate the event, with Scots Trad Awards Instrumentalist of the Year winner Rachel Newton, in celebration of one of Scotland’s most significant and unique female composers.
This screening was followed by a Q&A with Rachel and Edinburgh University’s Dr Stuart Eydmann on the significance of Russell-Ferguson’s contribution to Scotland’s musical culture, and womens’ experience in the Scottish traditional arts today.
In a region of Lithuania known as 'Land of Songs', five sprightly elderly women have kept their village’s ancient folk singing tradition alive through decades of war, occupation, and desertion. Aldona Watts’ debut feature is a tender record of the lives of these remarkable women, and an eloquent testament to heritage and the universal language of folk music.
This screening was introduced by a live performance of Lithuanian and Polish work songs by Davno, and was followed by a Q&A with director Aldona Watts.
Oscar-nominated director Selma Vilhunen’s documentary about the passing on of Finnish oral traditions documents two years in the life of Jussi, the last-surviving Finnish rune singer, and his student Hanneriina, a young woman with a mysterious past. A lyrical rumination on roots and connections full of humour and mystery, ‘Laulu’ is a moving testament to the healing power of song as a binding force between people and communities.
An under-appreciated gem of Scottish cinema, ‘The Brave Don’t Cry’ is a moving true story, based on the true life events in Ayrshire of the Knockshinnoch disaster in September 1950. When the walls of the local mine cave in, a dangerous rescue plan is mounted to rescue the 118 men trapped underground. Produced by John Grierson and featuring actors from the Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre, director Philip Leacock brings humour and humanity to a tale of survival, comradeship and community.
This screening was introduced by a live performance of Scots mining songs from George Duff.
A remarkable testament of working class black experience in 70’s Los Angeles, Charles Burnett’s debut remains as relevant today as when it was first released. Stan works long hours in an inner-city slaughterhouse, quietly struggling to hold onto his humanity under the grinding weight of hard labour and family poverty. A work of stark poetry and quiet, excoriating anger, the film depicts the myriad perspectives and pressures upon an urban black community, with a score encompassing the length, breadth and richness of Afro-American music from Paul Robeson to Earth, Wind and Fire.
This screening was introduced by a live performance from Scottish-based Jamaican singer Brina.
Perhaps the greatest film ever made about the labor movement, John Sayles’ drama is a poetic and deeply humane treatment of the coal miners’ strike in 1920. Union man Joe Kenehan arrives in the small town of Matewan just as a major dispute kicks off between the Stone Mountain Coal company and its workers. Can Joe convince the local miners to stand together with the newly-arrived black workers and Italian immigrants (shipped in as cheap labour), or will the different communities tear each other apart? A profound, moving masterpiece of political cinema, ‘Matewan’ remains a hugely relevant exploration of solidarity amongst communities under enormous pressure.
Amber return to the Folk Film Gathering to present a powerful tribute to working class women in Tyneside in the aftermath of the Miners’ Strike. Like many women active during the strike, May has been left to clean up the mess. Struggling with a failed marriage, two unruly children, and the onset of hot flushes, May is just about holding things together when she meets Roy, the new manager of an open cast mine. Roy brings a degree of humour and warmth long missing in May’s life, but is he truly the answer to her problems?
This screening was introduced by a live performance from the MacTaggart Scott Loanhead Brass Band, and was followed by a Q&A with director Ellin Hare and cinematographer Peter Roberts.