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‘Under the Surface’ by David R Cairns

'Under the Surface' is one of our latest Bridging the Gap under the theme of Shift.

The film is about a series of suicides by young men in Dundee, during summer 2010 and how their families coped with such tragedy. David R Cairns, the director, straight out of NFTVS, poured all his energy and sensitivity into listening to those families, absorbing their pain, and finding ways to translate it poetically so the film will walk the fine line of telling the harsh facts of reality, living in economically deprived Dundee while respecting their individual stories with enough feelings to go beyond the social worker case study, all this in 9 minutes!

The next hard step of making such a film is to show it to the families. Do we go round screening it to one family at a time?  I don’t think David could cope multiplying that experience times eight, so SDI decided to hire a lovely screening room at Abertay University and give those families the experience to see their faces and words projected, while seating in the dark. A shared yet a private experience beyond being in the living room with many other things competing for their attention. A chance to nearly touch their loved ones on a screen bigger than themselves. Another memory to cherish along the other memories of their dead sons.

I had seen the film many times in the editing room, but sitting there in the dark, with them, feeling the rawness of their feelings 15 months on, made it difficult to switch lights on and break the silence. We were all moved, silent tears to start with and eventually chocked words came flooding with thankful words to David for having captured their pain without pointing the finger at their failure to keep their sons safe from their own hands. They felt the respect they deserve and therefore happy to have their lives exposed to the world, only  wishing that BBC Scotland would give them longer than 9 ‘.

I wish this short film a long life.


Filed under: Bridging the Gap, , , , , ,

+/-20 Celsius: From Rome to Lerwick

In the last two weekends I’ve been fortunate to travel South and North to attend two small festivals. They offer different kinds of opportunities to big industry events, and the ripples of a visit can last much longer in some instances.

At the end of August I attended Rome’s 2nd Gender DocuFilm Festival, situated in the 10th annual “Gay Village” – a beer and event garden which pops up each summer between June and September, with disco nights, film screenings and other cultural events on two stages. As president of the Di’Gay project Imma Battaglia said when she welcomed us with a buffet dinner: “We love putting Gay Village in the park to remind people of how important it is to look after the environment. It’s about going beyond LGBT issues – if we don’t care for the trees, we’ll be nowhere politically!” For me the idea of celebrating open hearted diversity, a stone throw (or shall we say an apple’s throw…) from The Vatican is at once amusing and very progressive. I found a place full of history, looking to the future.

Gay Village, Rome

(c) Robert Greene

Gender DocuFilm Fest’s artistic director is Giona Nazarro, who also programmes for Locarno, Visions du Reel and other festivals. He carefully picked 7 films (30′-90′), his 4 jury members (of which I was one of them) and his visiting filmmaker guests and arranged open air screenings of all the films in the evenings. In the day time we had ample opportunities to explore Rome, mingle with fellow guests, or to lounge by the pool in the hotel (yes, on occasion with computer). Gay Village audiences were mixed, gay or straight and the atmosphere supportive – when one screening got delayed the audience was most forgiving and did not move from their seats, despite ample opportunity to succumb to a glass of alcohol. There is a party each day after midnight (Thurs – Sat) when even more crowds pack out the garden to dance the night away, or try their luck at Karaoke.

The selected films included the Danish film Romeo and Julius, by Sabine Hvid, the award-winning Swedish film The Regretters by Marcus Lindeen, both very accomplished, deceptively accessible pieces which blow open our understanding of gender transitioning, and our performance of social and sexual roles. The jury (including filmmakers Robert Greene & Luca Guadagnino, & festival director Alberto Lastrucci) decided to give the award to Kathakali (The Table with the Dogs) by Cedric Martinelli & Julien Touati, a film in which we look east only to find the body is truly the last frontier…(Trailer here.). Regretters picked up its first audience award in Rome to Lindeen’s delight.

TundraThis weekend I’m just back from a trip to Lerwick in Shetland where our slate of Bridging the Gap shorts on the theme of Shift were screening as part of the Shetland ScreenPlay film festival, now in it’s 5th year and running alongside the 10th annual WordPlay festival, and co-curated by film critic Mark Kermode, who was launching his latest book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex, with an amusing account of what’s wrong with modern cinema. (The short answer is “Michael Bay”).

Martin Smith, director of Jimmy came out to Lerwick for a Q&A full of perceptive questions. It’s always great to see the shorts shown as a showcase together, something we’re trying to do more this year, so watch this space.

Jimmy in ShetlandActor Jim Broadbent was also guest of honour and we watched his acclaimed Longford, in which he plays opposite Samantha Morton as Myra Hindley, in the C4 production directed by Tom “King’s Speech” Hooper. Broadbent also showed his self- penned A Sense of History – a short satire directed by Mike Leigh, in which he plays an aristocratic landowner with some “darker” secrets.

In the evening we stroll around Lerwick’s Broch (or ancient round house) and head back for a delicious buffet and natter over food with local filmmakers, and Martin strikes up a conversation with Shetland’s youth filmmaking group, some of whom I met last year at our workshop.

We were lucky to stay in a house in Trondra, thanks to Screen Hi, an island right by Scalloway (Shetland’s ancient capital), with stunning views of the sea and the wind-ridden, rolling mountains either side. There wasn’t much time to explore further this year, but I know we’ll be back – especially when Mareel, the new cutting edge cinema and arts venue opens sometime next year.

More information on Shetland Arts & ScreenPlay here.
Link to Gender Docufilm Festival here & Gay Village.

Filed under: Festivals, , , , , , ,

7 Sheffield World Premieres

Sheffield World Premieres.pdf

Bridging the Gap: Surprise

Available world wide:

SEVEN SHORT DOCUMENTARIES by talented new directors on the theme of “SURPRISE” commissioned by Scottish Documentary Institute in 2010. These films surprise and sometimes uplift us with subjects ranging from a mystery sender who posts objects to fashion designer Paul Smith, to a towering transvestite struggling for acceptance in middle England, to an exploration of 21st Century suburbia in Surprise, Arizona and the portrait of a brutalist architect who will outlive all of his buildings.

More information on the initiative:


Twinset – Amy Rose – 3 Nov @ 16:00 & 6 Nov @ 10:00

PS Your Mystery Sender – Benjamin Wigley – 4 Nov @ 20:00

Get Luder – Jonathan Carr – 5 Nov @ 21:00

Surpriseville – Tim Travers Hawkins – 6 Nov @ 21:00 & 7 Nov @ 10:00

Made with funding from Creative Scotland, Skillset, BBC Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, EM Media & Edinburgh College of Art.

Also check out:




Waiting for Godot – Md. Arifur Rahman – 4 Nov @ 12:00

Day labourers in Dhaka gather at dawn in a market to sell their labour. The ones left behind come to terms with the effects of not getting a job.

Bitter Lemon – Nazmun Nakeb – 5 Nov @ 21:00 & 7 Nov @ 15:30

Experience the point of view of a traffic policeman as he complains how the people of Dhaka have made breaking the rules a way of life.

My Dream – Md. Rezwan Ali Khan – 5 Nov @ 16:15 & 6 Nov @15:20

Sumon, a shrewd businessman, makes a decent living as a disabled beggar. He doesn’t just keep it for himself though. He has a dream.

Calling Home – Shadman Alvi – 6 Nov @ 21:30

Abdul Aziz, another migrant from the countryside, rides the rickshaw day in day out to support his family and afford an education for his daughter.

Dhaka Stories was made in association with British Council & Bangladesh Documentary Council

Filed under: Bridging the Gap, Festivals, , , ,

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