Surfing, sex, confused adolescence, and hellfire religion on the Outer Hebrides – it’s a heady mix for Skye-born filmmaker Johnny Barrington’s debut feature.
But it’s one he hopes audiences will love – especially as Silent Roar is making its world premiere by opening this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival with a red-carpet screening next week.
“I’m really elated and excited and euphoric – all with capital E’s,” said Johhny about the prospect of his first feature film, shot on Lewis, making its world premiere at a festival with a global reputation.
“I’m also very excited to see how a public audience sees it. We’ve had two cast and crew screenings already and they went down very well, and we had a secret screening on Lewis for the community that were in the film, all the supporting artists. That was great fun.
Silent Roar was filmed in and around Uig on Lewis
“There were hundreds of people involved in the film itself and they really enjoyed it. There was a good atmosphere after the screening, and everyone hung about and danced. A lot.”
With the premier and festival looming on August 18 at Edinburgh’s Everyman Cinema, Johnny is on a mission to make an impression on the night.
“I’ve decided to splash out on a kilt pin, because the one I’ve got looks like a big baby’s nappy pin, so I’m going to invest in more a fancy one.”
The real focus of the night, though, will be Silent Roar, created by BAFTA-nominated writer and director Johhny and filmed in and around Uig on Lewis.
It follows a young surfer, Dondo (played by Louis McCartney) who struggles to accept his father’s disappearance at sea, who hooks up with with Sas (Ella Lily Hyland) who dreams of leaving the island. But when a new and odd minister arrives Dondo starts to have cosmic visions.
“Basically, a young surfer goes off the rails and invents his own cosmology while striking up an unlikely friendship with the high school tearaway – well that’s what I’m making up just now. It comes and goes”, said Johhny, who is himself a keen surfer.
“It’s about confused adolescence, it’s about grief and unusual dealings with grief, and it’s about sex, religion, and freaky families. Overall, it’s about a metaphysical joy of some weird kind.”
Silent Roar draws on Johhny Barrington’s teenage years on Skye
The film draws deeply on Johhny’s own childhood and teenage years on Skye, a place where he still spends much of his time.
His late father was originally a sailor, running boat trips to places like the Faroe Islands and St Kilda and was away for prolonged periods, but then he became a minister, which plays into Silent Roar.
“It’s one thing when you grow up in a family where your father is a minister from the get-go and his wife is a willing accomplice, but that wasn’t the case in my family,” he said.
“So, I got to see a lot of dinner table talk about does God exist or not, a lot of metaphysical chat that involved doubt and atheism, so there’s a lot of that underpinning the film.
“And in my teenage years, there was lot of mucking around outside, on boats, blowing things up, burning things. There’s lots of fire in the film.”
Given the fascinating themes and storyline running through Silent Roar, it begs the question of whether Johnny was inspired by any particular films or directors for his work.
Johnny’s film influences range from David Lynch to Highlander
“We were shooting a scene at one point and I said to the script supervisor: ‘This is like Emmerdale on acid’,” he joked.
“But my early influences were definitely David Lynch – Blue Velvet – and a film called Napoleon Dynamite was a lot of fun. Another film that had a big impact on me as a kid was Breaking The Waves, and Highlander as well.”
Johhny had originally thought of filming on Skye, but decided against it as surfing is a large element of Silent Roar and his home island doesn’t really have suitable surfing beaches.
“Lewis does have a lot of good surfing. That’s pretty much where I learned to surf. Also, my producer Chris (Young) is very attached to Lewis, he lives there a lot of the time, and he introduced me to Uig, which is just magical. It’s just another dimension of beauty,” he said.
Johnny said the filming on Lewis was an absolute joy both for him and the cast despite the challenges of the variable weather and the fact about a third of it was shot either at or in the sea.
“But when I see the film now, for me personally, it’s like watching a documentary of the best time of my life,” he said.
Silent Roar will be a ‘wholesome emotional ride’ hopes Johnny
Now he hopes audiences will get as much from watching it as he did from writing and making it.
“I would love it to either reignite or increase their sense that the cinema-going experience can be funny and sad and deep and shallow. It’s about the meaningful things in life, but it’s also about boobs and willies. I just hope people have a wholesome emotional ride.”
Silent Roar will have its world premiere, opening the Edinburgh International Film Festival, on August 18 and also screen on August 19. For details and tickets visit eif.co.uk/edfilmfest