SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY - Gaelic film scales new pinnacle in Rome
20th May 2007
EVEN by the modest standards of Scottish movie-making, the budget was miniscule, the actors obscure and the likely audience limited.
But Gaelic feature film The Inaccessible Pinnacle has amazed industry watchers by punching massively above its weight in the ruthlessly competitive international film industry.
The movie, which gets its screening at Cannes tomorrow night, has been invited to compete in October at the Rome Film Festival, a wealthy new event that has caused uproar by deliberately competing with the long-established Venice Film Festival.
The Rome invitation is hugely exciting for the makers of The Inaccessible Pinnacle, called Seachd (seven) in Gaelic. Last year's inaugural event included The Departed, which went on to win the Oscar for best film. Rome's clout was underlined by the attendance of such big names as Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Sir Sean Connery, Nicole Kidman and Richard Gere.
The Inaccessible Pinnacle, which was made for just £700,000, is now officially a 'buzz' title at Cannes, where it is screening in the market rather than the competition.
Producer Christopher Young has another reason to celebrate: he has already secured a UK distribution deal for the movie and is hopeful that it might even end up in the running for the foreign-language Oscar.
The movie is being compared to classic Hollywood fantasy films such as The Princess Bride and Big Fish. Distributor Soda Pictures has high hopes for the film and thinks it could even redefine filmgoing habits in Britain.
"Rome is big news," said Young, who only arrived in Cannes last Thursday. "I gave them [the Rome organisers] a sneak preview here and they absolutely love the film."
Fabia Bettini, one of the Rome festival programmers, said she thought the film was "very sweet" and predicted it would be popular with audiences.
Several British distributors expressed interest. But Young, a veteran producer whose previous films include Venus Peter, Gregory's Two Girls and Festival, was attracted by the detailed strategy Soda presented for the film's release, including the recruitment of a Gaelic-speaking publicist.
The Inaccessible Pinnacle is the name of a summit in Skye's Cuillin Mountains, attainable only by rock climbing. In the opening scene, two climbers die on the Inaccessible Pinnacle, leaving three children to be brought up by grandparents.
The grandfather (played by Gaelic poet and novelist Angus Peter Campbell) tells them a series of far-fetched stories involving a magic horse, a man who has lived for 1,000 years and a couple of shipwrecked sailors - one from the Spanish Armada and a Scot called MacDonald, who may or may not have a lasting impact on fast food.
Young and director Simon Miller scaled the Inaccessible Pinnacle themselves for the vital mountain shots and the film is considered by critics to be a remarkable achievement on such a budget.
It was a risky undertaking for Young, who was born in Edinburgh but has lived on Skye for eight years. He pointed out that Seachd was the first Gaelic film conceived specifically for cinema release.
"There is definite momentum with the Soda deal and now Rome selection," said Young. "I'm incredibly pleased and I speak from the experience of how difficult it is to get a UK deal for any British film.
"There are probably at least 100 films sitting on the shelf that were made in the UK in the last few years that are never going to be shown in the cinema."
Kate Grover, head of publicity at Soda, said: "Myth and folklore are constantly popular. It's a family film and I think that's where it can have a wider appeal."
Young deliberately held back on foreign deals until the UK release was secure. "On Monday the gates will be open to doing other territories," he said.
He said Rome would provide the film with "a high-profile platform" for Europe and possibly even a run at the Oscars.
Every country is allowed to nominate one film for consideration for the foreign-language Oscar and it is fair to say that there will be less competition in the UK than in France and Italy.
"You never know," said Young. "I'm an optimist."
By Brian Pendreigh