MOVIESCOPE: Edinburgh premieres first ever Scottish Gaelic feature

Simon Miller’s shoestring budget feature in Gaelic language Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle is to premier at Edinburgh IFF and will be in contention for the Michael Powell Award. Seachd is very likely to be screened at another major European festival soon after Edinburgh.

Seachd: The Inaccessible PinnacleOnline, the film’s biggest fan base is in Canada and the USA. (Gaelic for “seven”) was picked up by Soda for UK and Ireland distribution at this year’s Cannes film market. There is already strong international interest in Seachd. Miller, a late starter as a film director, is fascinated by Gaelic culture.

Gaelic is Scotland’s ancient minority language, now largely supplanted by English but still spoken and understood in the western highlands and islands of Scotland. It is also understood by Gaelic speakers in Ireland and in Nova Scotia. Miller devised the story of the film with his wife and then worked collaboratively with Gaelic writers and actors, as well as an all-Gaelic film crew, to ensure the cultural authenticity of the end product.

“I wanted to make a film that was real,” says Miller, “that was honestly Gaelic, that had heart and integrity and was not a film made by someone coming in to borrow the culture. It was a film that was meant to be a film for Gaels as much as I could make it, given the fact that unfortunately, I’m not a fluent Gaelic speaker myself.”

The film is the story of an orphaned boy, Angus, seeking the truth behind the death of his parents and the truth behind his Grandfather’s ancient, incredible, fearful stories, drawn from the whole swathe of Gaelic history, including tales of poisoned lovers, bloody revenge, water-horses and Spanish gold. Finally, his Grandfather leads Angus to one of Scotland's most treacherous mountains, The Inaccessible Pinnacle—and an ancient truth he never expected to find.

Shot in high definition in the Isle of Skye, in the Cuillins, within the shadow of the Inaccessible Pinnacle climbed as part of the story. The film has an all-Gaelic speaking cast and crew to ensure authenticity and acceptability to a Gaelic audience.

Made in peak tourist season, the shoestring feature budget of £650,000 had to be spent largely on securing accommodation and feeding more than 30 cast as well as film crew over the five-week shoot. Almost all the cast and crew travelled back to Skye, at their own expense, to attend the community screening of the completed film.

Seachd: The Inaccessible PinnacleSeachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle is Miller’s debut feature and follows hard on the heels of a critically acclaimed short film he made, also in Gaelic, called in English The Crimson Snowdrop.

Miller and his Skye-based producer Chris Young worked with the BBC’s Gaelic language division in Scotland BBC Alba; the new Gaelic Media Service and national film development agency Scottish Screen, as well as several Gaelic writers and poets to deliver a script that could deliver Gaelic storytelling culture to the big screen, both for Gaels and for the international community.

Seachd will screen with English subtitles in non-Gaelic speaking areas. It is backed by a very comprehensive website, including lessons on how to speak Gaelic.

The film premieres in Edinburgh on Thursday 16th of August and is screened in competition on the 19th of August at the Cameo Cinema.

Look out for an in-depth interview with Simon Miller in the next issue of movieScope Magazine.

By James Macgregor