A moving documentary made entirely from archived footage of ordinary Scots made it to the big screen in Aberdeen last night.
From the fishing communities of the Highlands and islands, to the smoke of the Glasgow shipyards, to Scots departing their homeland for US shores, From Scotland With Love crafts an unforgettable tale of the Scottish identity.
The film pieces together footage from Scotland’s past since the early days of cinema, to construct a portrait of life in the country over the years.
The 95-minute film – which premiered on TV earlier this year – explores themes of love, work, loss, death and migration, accompanied by a fitting score by Scots musician King Creosote.
In a one-off screening it played on screen one of the Belmont Cinema last night, following which there was a question and answer session with the film’s director Virginia Heath and a set by Kenny Anderson, King Creosote’s real name.
The film was made by a crew of mainly Scots – including editor Colin Monie, who has worked on Neds, Hallam Foe and Young Adam – however, Ms Heath herself hails from New Zealand.
She said: “I have lived in Scotland nearly four years, but my grandmother was Scottish, she emigrated to New Zealand, so I grew up with that person having come from the other side of the world.”
The award-winning director added that the Scottish, and worldwide, appeal of the film was because “It’s a film that, although very much of Scotland, reflects on the 20th century.”
Ms Heath said: “It was made for cinema.”
The film-maker pieced together the archived footage – sourced through the National Archives of Scotland – around the music created by Mr Anderson.
She added: “My archivist was actually my daughter, she carried out the researching. Often when Kenny came up with the lyrics, she’d go back into the archives.”
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Ms Heath added that they had “only just scratched the surface” of what the archives held.
Mr Anderson created the music with his band, a six-person choir and strings by cellist Pete Harvey.
The musicians relocated to a studio by Loch Fyne, near the Sound of Bute, to develop the film’s accompanying music.
Ms Heath said it was fascinating for her to see the “whole evolution” of the soundtrack that would form the backbone of the film – from Mr Anderson singing alone with his acoustic guitar, to choir-backed score.
She added: “From these growing songs they then got the arrangements, and then I took all of these and did the editing. Certain things had to shift and change and join.”
Mr Anderson said: “I have never done anything like this before, I have had songs used in different TV series, but that’s usually with a director identifying that song.
“It wasn’t until it was explained that the songs would play an important part of the story telling, my job was often to bring a human element to it”.
Ms Heath added that viewing the finished film in a cinema gave the “sense of being enveloped by the sounds” of the documentary.
One of the first screenings of the film was held out in the open during the Commonwealth Games, on July 31 in Glasgow Green.
Here Ms Heath and Mr Anderson got to see the universal impact of the film first hand – in the most fitting of Scottish weather.
Ms Heath said: “The first public performance of it was during the games and we were very unlucky with the weather, but the crowd just got bigger and bigger.”
Before long, the event – despite the rain – had attracted “thousands” of people.
Mr Anderson added: “The crowd actually grew. It was a very special performance and the roar of the crowd was unbelievable”.
From Scotland With Love played as part of the “To See Oursels” film season at the Belmont Filmhouse.
This has so far seen Scottish film celebrated with screenings of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting and Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero.
It will end on Sunday September 7 with a showing of The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil – a 1974 TV adaptation of a stage play.
The film – which will be introduced by Aberdeen University professor, Andrew Blaikie – looks at two centuries of Scottish history, from the brutal end of the 45′ rebellion to the discovery of North Sea oil.