UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS: Cinema at the periphery
15th June 2006
Scotland will be one of the many burgeoning peripheral cinemas to be discussed at an international film studies conference starting at the University of St Andrews today (Thursday 15 June 2006).
Leading international filmmakers, critics and film scholars will descend on St Andrews as the University’s Centre for Film Studies celebrates its first anniversary with the ‘Cinema at the Periphery’ conference.
Dr David-Martin Jones said, “In the mid 1990s, all eyes suddenly focused on filmmaking in Scotland. There was the international splash made by such indigenous hits as Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, coupled with the location shooting of Hollywood blockbusters like Braveheart and Rob Roy. After years in the filmmaking wilderness, Scotland was suddenly on the map. Since then we might be forgiven for thinking that things have died down. On closer inspection, this is not the case. Since the establishing of Scottish Screen in the late 1990s filmmaking in Scotland has expanded slowly but steadily. For a tiny nation on the global periphery there is an awful lot going on with talented art cinema directors such as Peter Mullan (Orphans, The Magdalene Sisters), Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) and David MacKenzie (Young Adam, Asylum).
“Also, the imminent appearance of Michael Douglas, receiving an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews next week, is not the only major Hollywood star recently attracted to Scotland. In fact, people in Scotland are gradually getting used to seeing the likes of Morgan Freeman, Jet Li, Gillian Anderson, Adrian Brody and Michelle Pfeiffer - not to mention Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Aishwarya Rai – popping into the local shop. The tourist boom created by the so called “Braveheart effect” was not lost on the Scottish Executive, Scottish Screen or the government in Westminster, all of whom went out of their way to encourage inward investment from filmmakers in Hollywood, India, Denmark, and so on. Location shooting on the Bollywood hit Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) brought in £85 000 alone, before we even begin to consider the impact of the immense circulation of images of Scotland in such films to the tourist industry”.
Scotland is also attracting substantial funding to boost training and infrastructure. In addition to lottery funding for film production, there is also some movement on the ground to help young talented filmmakers acquire the skills they need. Scottish Screen’s Chief Executive Ken Hay recently stated his dedication to developing both the education of Scotland’s younger generation of filmmakers, and indeed, the awareness of Scottish audiences to Scottish cinema. Furthermore, The establishment of the new Screen Academy in Edinburgh illustrates this commitment in concrete terms.
Dr Martin-Jones continued, “Furthermore, the imminent filming of the first ever Gaelic feature, Seachd (The Inaccessible Pinnacle) on the Isle of Skye is just one example of indigenous production growth, whilst the presence of award winning animation company Red Kite in Edinburgh can only help matters. In short, we should not too quickly summarise that filmmaking in Scotland has dried up since the late 1990s. Rather, the ground is gradually being prepared for continued growth.”
The steady growth of the Scottish film industry over the last decade is not unique. Although its progress has been nowhere near that of the most prominent success story, South Korea – which sprang from global mediocrity to one of the top ten film producing nations practically overnight – Scotland’s steady growth could soon lead to comparisons with other smaller filmmaking nations as diverse as Denmark and Iran. this June. Demonstrating the pulling power of Scotland in filmmaking terms, and the increasing cultural awareness of art cinema in Scotland, French art film director Claire Denis will feature at the conference, giving a public Q&A session at Dundee’s Contemporary Arts Centre (DCA) on Friday June 16th.
The conference has also attracted acclaimed Arab documentary director Mohamad Soueid, a major Lebanese filmmaker, novelist and film critic from Beirut, who will introduce his controversial film, ‘Civil War’ (2002), which was censored in Lebanon, part of a trilogy that includes the prizewinning ‘Tango of Yearning’ (1998) and ‘Nightfall’ (2002).
Meanwhile, Duncan Petrie, the leading historian of Scottish cinema based at the University of Auckland, will discuss the challenges facing periphery cinema in the face of major, Hollywood blockbusters boasting lavish production and promotional budgets, major stars and dazzling special effects.
Famous scholars like Hamid Naficy (Rice University, Houston) and Dudley Andrew (Yale University) will talk on the cinemas of Iran and the Pacific Rim respectively.
Pam Cook from the University of Southampton, editor of the major anthologies ‘The Cinema Book’ and ‘Women and Film’ and author of important works on British cinema, will survey the career of the Australian director Baz Luhrman (‘Strictly Ballroom’, ‘Moulin Rouge’) both in Australia and in Hollywood.
Other international scholars will discuss aspects of Chinese, Morroccan, Quebecois, aboriginal and transcultural cinemas.
The conference will also see the launch of three books by St Andrews academics including one on actor John Mills, by Professor Gill Plain of the University’s School of English, Dr David Martin- Jones’ book on Deleuze, Cinema and National Identity, and Professor Iordanova’s new book on the Cinema of the Balkans.