Saturday, 18 June 2016

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. Moon Dogs.

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016. Moon Dogs.

The annual Edinburgh International Film Festival is in full swing just now, celebrating its 70th edition. I have never before been to see anything at it, but had the chance this year to head along the M8 from Glasgow to attend the premiere of Moon Dogs, a Celtic road movie set between Shetland and Glasgow. 

I had a couple of family members involved in the film and also two of my wee nieces were meant to be in it as extras, bopping about at a club, so I have known about this film for a while. With a couple of my aunties and cousins we trundled east on Friday night to see if Keira and Issy's dancing made the final cut. 

I don't know anything about film-making but hearing second hand the lengths people have to go to, to secure funding and bring an idea to the screen it makes you wonder why people bother even trying. Beyond the world of superhero blockbusters it seems to be a very hand-to-mouth existence. Any screenings of films which involve a Q&A with the director or cast that I have been to, such as the Graeme Obree documentary film Battle Mountain, Sunset Song directed by Terence Davies and a recent award-winning Scottish film starring Kate Dickie and George MacKay, For Those In Peril, the same message is heard. We struggled to get funding, we had to cut these corners to stick to budget, we are now struggling to get any distribution, to make back any of the money put into it. Directors, writers, producers often appear to have to do much work unpaid in order get the film completed.

Moon Dogs is the first feature film from director Philip John who hails from Wales and has worked on Being Human, Downtown Abbey and Outlander for TV. In the film, after his girlfriend leaves Shetland for university in Glasgow, Michael (Jack Parry-Jones) and his step-brother Thor (Christy O'Donnell - who you may recognise as a handsome young busker from Buchanan Street) embark on a road-trip to the big city, aided and abetted by Caitlin (charismatic Irish singer and actress Tara Lee) who they meet on the way. The other major cast member is the Scottish scenery. From grey skies over Shetland and Orkney, through the green Highlands to Stirling and Glasgow (where I got to play "spot the location"). The three young lead actors, from Scotland, Ireland and Wales, are always entertaining whilst on screen and the different personalities of the characters create friction along the way. Naive young Michael gets all the best lines, whilst my teenage sons were rooting for Caitlin and your heart goes out to Thor's emo-introspection. You want to give him a big hug. 

Cast, crew and musician Anton Newcombe at the Moon Dogs premiere, Edinburgh
Music is an important part of the story and it was imaginative to avoid the easy heedrum-hodrum Scottish music option and choose American experimental/ psychedelic/ rock/ innovative musician Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre) to provide the soundtrack. Working on his first movie score he seems to have really thrown himself into it and his music was present during filming, as he explained at the screening, and is completely interwoven into the plot. I could happily sit and watch it with my eyes closed, but then I would miss the Scottish scenery. 

Other well-kent Scottish faces appear in the film (such as Denis Lawson and Tam Dean Burn, all eyebrows and attitude) and the step-parents (is that a word?) played by Jamie Sives and Claire Cage are warnly played. However the young leads in the film are the stars, full of personality and strong character. Gently rebelling. 

It was a really enjoyable night out in Edinburgh, lovely to hear from the cast and crew at the end and I can only wish the film well, as it makes Scotland look lovely. And yes, my nieces smiling faces did make it onto the screen, the true stars of the whole production, obviously.

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