Noe’s Letter from Maputo

Some of you may have heard of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique but I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. It is a large country in the south of Africa, with a very long coast on the Indian Ocean and sharing borders with South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Not only do they share borders but also a history of wars and colonialism. Except that Mozambique was the only territory in that part of Africa colonized by Portugal, which meant independence only came once Portugal got rid of its own fascist government in 1975.

Then came the golden era of Mozambique's left wing liberator, Samora Machel. Again, many people wouldn’t even know his name, but he was a bigger version of Mandela, with as much of a passion for his people as he had for life. Less than 10 years later – at a time when Aparteid in South Africa was at its most threatening, and in retaliation of Mozambique’s offering political refuge to South African militants – his presidential plane crashed ‘by accident’, leaving Mozambique a helpless widow.

This is a long introduction to talk about Dockanema, Mozambique’s annual documentary festival, but Mozambique has always had a special place in the history of cinema.

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Werner Herzog's Rogue Film School, the experience part I

The Rogue Film School: Meet and Greet

Whilst on the 16.27 train from Clapham Junction to Crawley many peculiar thoughts entered my head. First of all, why Crawley? Werner Herzog had chosen the furthest hotel from Gatwick Airport for his first European and third-in-all Rogue Film School, a hotel that happened to sit on the fringes of this town. Secondly I had to remember to breathe as I found myself reliving the moment the email fell into my inbox with the subject heading, 'Congratulations!!!'

I happen to recall that in the moment of receiving that email I had been in a pub, somewhere in Edinburgh, with, as a coincidence, the director of photography of the film that I entered The Great Flood, Scott Ward, and one of the editors of the film, Fiona Reid. Within that second all sound faded out of my cacophonous conscious state and all sight focused on the wording of the email, I looked to them pale as coconut milk and asked, ‘Should I go?’

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+/-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.

Gay Village, RomeAt the end of August I attended Rome's 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.

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10th edition: Dokufest, Prizren, Kosovo

Dokufest no 10To get back to Kosovo this year I flew to Tirana, Albania, which has a brand new airport. I'm told it's at least a 2.5 hours drive to Prizren “if the traffic is good”, on a newly built motorway which winds through the mountains for a journey that used to take up to 8 hours. I'm assured the driver “used to race rally” and relax into my seat. Never mind the Italian car which later blocks us from over-taking by hogging the line, at 160kph, and the 10cm which separate the bumpers of our cars. I ask the driver if he's seen Senna, the documentary – as if that might alleviate my sweaty palms, or distract him from pursuing the chase. (He hadn't.)

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Our first documentary PhD!

We have our first documentary PhD by practice! Amy Hardie (The Edge of Dreaming) and the rest of the SDI team celebrated yesterday with champagne and strawberries at ECA's last independent graduation ceremony. Edinburgh College of Art merges with Edinburgh University from 1 August.

But we have another ten PhD students with projects in the pipeline, so watch this space.

To find out about post-graduate opportunities, please go to our website.


Albert Maysles - Find The Good

My last evening on June 10, 2011 at Sheffield International Documentary Festival was a real treat when the noisy party was interrupted and brought to a whispering silence when Roger Graeff announced the arrival of the veteran documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Helped to the stage by festival director Heather Croall (someone should create an award for most energetic festival director), he walks shakily to the microphone in his crumpled black shirt, and wearing odd socks, one grey, one green, to a standing ovation by the crowd.

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Stem Cell Revolutions

Stem Cell Revolutions is an independent, feature length documentary exploring the history, development and ambitions of this fascinating field - from the first discovery of stem cells in the body to leading current clinical and scientific developments.

The result of a close creative collaboration between scientist Clare Blackburn (University of Edinburgh) and filmmaker Amy Hardie, Stem Cell Revolutions features eminent international figures in stem cell research – including Nobel Laureate Sir Martin Evans and Sir Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep – as well as acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood. Beautiful hand-drawn animations bring science to life on the big screen.

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Jane in America

Jane McAllisterJane McAllister is a Glasgow-based filmmaker whose first film Sporran Makers was produced through Bridging the Gap and nominated for Best Scottish Short Doc award at EIFF in 2009. Her second film, Caretaker for the Lord, made as part of the Screen Academy Scotland Documentary Directing programme at Edinburgh College of Art, got her invited to Full Frame and Tribeca this spring. This is her account.

I forgot my glasses, had flammable shoe dye in my hand luggage by accident and didn't know the address of my hotel in America... but when they finally let me on that plane with an "involuntary upgrade to business class" things just got better and better.

North Carolina stole my heart first. It was warm and green. The hotel had a pool. And as I sauntered up to the festival after a swim, people said Hello Mam, as I passed by. I had sweet waffles and chicken and made friends with documentary film makers. It was the best place to be.

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Scottish Films Galore!

We're thrilled to see so many Scottish films out and about at international festivals and on your cinema screens!
This week will see the world premieres of two of our brandnew Bridging the Gap: SHIFT films: Jimmy, by Martin Smith - a moving film about the tireless work of disabled rights campaigner Jimmy McIntosh, MBE, and The Perfect Fit, by Tali Yankelevich: It's about a part of the ballet world even Black Swan did not reveal to us: Who actually makes those uncomfortable point shoes? Well there's only one factory in the whole of UK, and one special shoemaker, as you will find out!  Bridging the Gap's key supporter has again been Creative Scotland, who recently launched their new film and arts funds, in case you haven't had a look yet.
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New beginnings for SDI

We’re trying to get a handle on audiences (let’s not use “the market”). Let me rephrase that:

How can we interest individuals in what we do, the documentaries we make and the questions we – or YOU – raise with them? How do we get people involved online and in person, and perhaps affect change? And how does this translate into a more sustainable business for filmmaking as a whole? That is what we want to be working on for the next 18 months thanks to funding from Creative Scotland.

Our colleagues in North America have been doing it as a matter of necessity. They have nurtured relationships with donors, individual giving and sponsorship for a long time. It’s tempting to focus only on how much money this might “bring” to a film. What is much more interesting is how “getting to know YOU” (one by one) can be an enlightening part of the whole process, deepening our understanding of the film and its need to exist in the world. Or, in other words, how and where do you want to meet your filmmaker?

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I AM BREATHING
FUTURE MY LOVE
PABLO'S WINTER
STEM CELL REVOLUTIONS

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