First of all, a huge thanks to Simon Miller, filmmaker of Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle (2008), for providing a detailed introduction and an illuminating Q&A this evening. Simon Miller is an award-winning filmmaker, whose films have been valorized at the Celtic film festival.
The evening was dedicated to Scottish Cinema, with the selection of a feature film articulated in Scottish Gaelic. Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle represents the first, and up to this point the only, feature film articulated in its entirety in the British minor language. However, as Miller pointed out during the Q&A, the film potentially eschews inclusion in the framework of a British or Scottish cinema, with stronger comparisons to Scandinavia or a unique work set astride from Scotland on the Isle of Skye. Perhaps, by drawing on folk culture, stories and traditions, there is a development of a ‘national’ culture (and even cinema) for the Scottish Isles that asserts its national specificities through the articulation of its difference. One key lament is that no Scottish Gaelic filmmakers (or film) have emerged since.
The opening film was the short film A Boy’s Life by Irenej Bosnjak. This short follows a young boy, who whilst living in an impoverished area of an unnamed Scottish cinema, finds magic goggles in the urban wasteland. These goggles allow him to escape his current situation, to dream of an ideal nuclear family unit and, in particular, a relationship with his father. In terms of its subject matter, its focus on the perils of a young boy and the urban tower blocks, the short film feels heavily indebted to Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher (1999).
Returning to Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle, I consider the film to be a poetic and lyrical ode to Scottish Gaelic storytelling. As Simon Miller noted, the film was translated into Scottish Gaelic (from English) by local poets, which potentially resulted in its poetic tone. The film concentrates upon the community’s local histories, traditions, and, in particular, stories, as a young boy seeks to uncover the reasons for the death of his parents and the truth behind his grandfather’s stories. Beautifully composed and crafted images of the Scottish landscape permeate the action that unfolds in the past, the present and the mythical. Shot with a HD camera, Seachd brilliantly captures a misty and mysterious lsle of Skye that has stories to tell. To this end, the landscape is invested in meaning, more than just a mere predicate for the unrolling of stories and action. The landscape has a correlation with these stories, as evinced by the final shot atop The Inaccessible Pinnacle. The landscape seems to marry the mythical and the action unrolling in the present day. Music also operates as an evocation of ‘national’ tradition and the past, with, as Simon Miller noted, the use of musical instruments that are indigenous to the location. To this end, a certain musical ‘authenticity’ seems to be at play. The audience particularly noted the coherence between sound and image in terms of the film’s location and the set of expectations that are carried alongside it.
Overall, the evening provided a rich discussion for a local and community-based cinema, i.e. Scottish Gaelic, which is often overlooked in the analyses of Scottish and British cinema. The aim was to show and celebrate the linguistic and cultural diversity that is present in the UK.