SDI at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival

It’s that time of year again… Tomorrow the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival kicks off and we’re very pleased to see so many friends and colleagues in the line-up! With such a massive selection of fantastic films and events to pick from we thought we’d help all you Scottish doc-heads out by giving you a quick round-up of everything that we’re up to at this year’s festival:

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Introducing... WOMEN

This year’s Bridging the Gap is well underway, with our four commissioned filmmakers currently in production with their selected films which will each respond to this year’s theme, WOMEN. We are delighted that, aptly, this year is the first year we have an all female cohort of participants.

Natalia is a freelance video editor and motion graphics designer with a big passion for documentary filmmaking. Originally from Greece, she has spent the last ten years studying and working in Italy and England and has recently made Scotland her new home. Lindsay is a visual artist, filmmaker and underwater camera woman. Wilma is a self shooting filmmaker with several shoestring budget features to her credit and who has recently turned to documentary. And Lucie is a lens-based artist living in Dundee. Her practice is somewhat confessional, working predominantly in video and photography to express recurring themes of domestic relationships, gender and the unspoken.

We caught up with each of them as they enter this exciting, if challenging, part of the process, to hear a little more about their idea and its development. 


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Scottish Documentary Round-Up @ Glasgow Film Festival

The Glasgow Film Festival is in full swing and if the programme is anything to go by 2016 will be a stellar year for Scottish documentaries. From genre-bending experimental features to storytelling and visual anthropology, the diversity of these docs suggests a healthy and thriving scene in Scotland. We’re very proud of all the films we've helped along the way and can’t wait to see all the others. 

Enjoy our quick round-up of what’s on over the next few days!

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Mining Poems or Odes at Sundance

Commissioned as part of our Bridging the Gap initiative, designed to foster emerging documentary talent, we are delighted to see Mining Poems or Odes go on to great international success. Since its première at the Edinburgh Film Festival last June the film has won a BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Short Film and is now nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Short Film. The award ceremony is this Sunday so we will have everything crossed for that one! Between these two glamorous events the film has screened at Sundance Film Festival and here the Director, Callum Rice, tells us of his experience as a young filmmaker at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world...


The film isn’t over until received by an audience.

After the premiere of Mining Poems or Odes at the Redstone Theatre, an ex-Miner from Utah, who was at the screening, stayed behind to chat to me. He told me about the older miners who sang opera down the mines when he worked with them in the past. This man from Utah had made an instant connection with Robert Fullerton’s experience through viewing my film.

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Jordan Stories

Last year at Sheffield International Documentary Festival I met Jordan filmmaker Abdelsalam, who happens to run the Jordan Film Commission Centre, and Alaa, officer for British Council in Amman. We talked about the possibility of SDI running our Stories workshop with up and coming Jordanian film talent. So, in the first week of 2016, we did. We arrived in Amman on New Years day with negative temperatures and a snowstorm. Thank goodness for lovely coffee bars with delicious ginger and lemon hot drinks!


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The Look of Silence

Noé Mendelle, director of Scottish Documentary Institute recently attended CPH:DOX for the first time. Here she writes about 'The Look of Silence,' the much anticipated follow up to Joshua Oppenheimer's Oscar-nominated feature, 'The Act of Killing.' This time, with an equally compelling and devastating narrative, we hear from the victims instead of the victors of Indonesia's communist massacres in the 1960s.

the_look_of_silence_1.pngLast night, in the glamorous Hotel D'Angleterre, the award ceremony for CPH:DOX was held - all glitz and good humour. My colleagues in Copenhagen are such good nature and company.

I was all the more pleased to be there because Edinburgh was amongst the many cities around Europe to take part in the Europe-wide release of 1989 for the opening of the festival. SDI is always eager to join hands with our beloved international documentary community.

Many awards were given out. The least surprising and yet the most deserved went to The Look of Silence by Joshua Oppenheimer. Joshua, despite his Oscar nomination in 2014 and huge international acclaim for The Act of Killing, received his award with great emotion and humbleness, making sure to share the spotlight with his most admired producer Signe Byrge Sorensen.

The Look of Silence, is the story of a young optician, going round his community and openly confronting the men who tortured and killed his brother during the '65-'66 Indonesian genocide. Murderers, who are still in power...

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Creative Distribution: Connect and Affect

Last week we launched Make Your Market, a brand new initiative that offers training and development for emerging PMDs who will work alongside Producers to develop Marketing and Distribution strategies for new films. SDI Producer Sonja Henrici reflects on her own experiences of working with a PMD.

Almost five years ago, we embarked on our Virtuous Circle project, investigating new business models and new roles in the film industry, in particular, the “PMD” - Producer of Marketing and Distribution (coined by Jon Reiss). We wanted to find out what impact this role would have on our slate of features and what we could learn about technology, digital tools, and the cutting edge of audience engagement, marketing and distribution.

We learned and tried out a lot of tools and strategies. We distributed I Am Breathing, Future My Love and Stem Cell Revolutions in different ways. But of course you also learn about yourself and the part you can play in this “industry” of ours.

You realise that we all make way too many films.

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The Forecaster: Days away from Economic Collapse?

Every week it would seem at least one new major economical scandal hits the headlines. Last week it was Volkswagen’s rigging its pollution tests. Writing for his Smoke and Mirrors blog, George Monbiot described the scandal as:

“a classic example of externalisation: the dumping of costs that businesses should carry onto other people. The air that should have been filtered by its engines is filtered by our lungs instead. We have become the scrubbing devices it failed to install.”

Here Monbiot points out that pollution became a physical manifestation of corruption. But how many more frauds go unnoticed while still infesting our lives, justified in the name of ‘economy’?

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Resilience: Applying to Bridging the Gap

The call for applications to Bridging the Gap has opened once again. We asked last year's successful participants to share their thoughts on what might help you get your proposal shortlisted this year. Theresa Moerman Ib (The Third Dad), Callum Rice (Mining Poems or Odes), Scott Calonico (The Banana Republic) and Alberto Iordanov (Bubo's Limbo) all completed short documentaries as part of last year's Bridging the Gap: Resilience. Here's their advice:


I submitted a dull two-page Word document in Times New Roman font with no images to Bridging the Gap. It looked more like a job application than a documentary proposal. Looking back, I'm a bit surprised it got shortlisted at all! So there's no magic formula for writing a successful proposal, but what I did have was a solid idea for a story, combined with passion and a strong vision. You have to be able to connect with your audience and communicate your idea using language that they can sense both visually and emotionally.

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The Democrats

Over the last 10 years Denmark has produced many great female documentary Directors including Eva Mulvad, Hanna Polak and Phie Ambo. The newest kid on the block, Camilla Nielsson, is currently making waves with her first feature doc The Democrats. I saw the premiere last November at CPH DOX and was completely drawn into this transfixing story. Admittedly on paper it did not read as such, Zimbabwe’s constitutional-reform through grassroots meetings did not sound like the substance of a riveting documentary!

But thanks to Nielsson’s storytelling talent, her choice of characters and her incredible behind-the-scenes access to her two politicians, it built all the humour and nervous tension you could wish for in a complex and engaging political film.

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