Scots mining movie The Happy Lands snubbed by “snobby” Edinburgh cinema bosses

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A MOVIE about heroic Scottish miners has been snubbed by “snobbish” Edinburgh cinema bosses – despite winning worldwide acclaim.

‘The Happy Lands’ is set during the devastating mining strike of 1926 and follows affected families from villages in Fife – and the working-class heroes who fought for better conditions.

The film won plaudits at its Glasgow Film Festival debut last month, has been selling out theatres at the Rennes Film Festival, France, and has been invited to take part in the Beijing Festival next month.

Jocky Wallace who plays Dan Guthrie in the movie.
Jokie Wallace who plays Dan Guthrie in the movie.

 

But back in Scotland, organisers of the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Filmhouse cinema, have rejected the movie, saying it is not of “necessary quality”.

The Bafta-nominated film, set in Lochgelly, Fife, stars local residents on screen and off, recruited by Theatre Workshop Scotland, to tell about the region’s mining history.

Director Robert Rae and his team spent four years assembling and training the volunteers and bringing the drama to the big screen.

The true-life tales, which have former PM Gordon Brown’s backing, will be shown to politicians at a private screening next month in the House of Commons.

 

Bosses at Edinburgh Filmhouse refused a screening
Bosses at Edinburgh Filmhouse refused a screening

 

Director Rae claimed there was an element of snobbery behind the decision, claiming the film would sell out theatres in Scotland’s capital.

He said: “Parts of the film industry are kind of aloof about it, maybe even threatened by it.

“Incredible really, given that it’s selling out everywhere, and would do so in Edinburgh.

“I think it’s because they can’t get their heads around that fact that a film concentrated with a community could be as technically and cinematically as good as it is.

“There is something in the fact that it was shown at the Glasgow film festival, but not in Edinburgh. Glasgow festival is very much audience-focussed, and it is a film that audiences really love.

“I think there is a certain type of snobbery in Edinburgh, there is a sort of sense that this is a film about the working class, and I don’t know the backgrounds of the programmers at the Filmhouse, but it may be that they don’t come from a mining background.

“The programmers actually only watched it for an hour.

“It’s frustrating, because I know that audiences love it. From my perspective the Filmhouse is denying its audience the chance to watch and very powerful and unique film experience.”

 

The film is set in Fife in the 1920s
The film is set in Fife in the 1920s

 

One of the stars of the film, Bafta-nominated Jokie Wallace, who comes from a family of miners, said: “It’s disappointing that Edinburgh audiences aren’t going to see the film. There are a lot of ex-miners who live in areas surrounding Edinburgh.

“The film has been successful everywhere it has been shown. During the Glasgow film festival they held it back for an extra day and showed it at the Cineworld.

“It’s a film that affects a lot of people. I think it’s very sad that it would get shown in Edinburgh.”

Tony Garnett, who produced Kes and Cathy Come Home, said that The Happy Lands was good enough to appear at the festival.

He said: “I’m still not sure that everyone appreciates just how significant the film is, a permanent testimony to an important moment which deserves to live forever.

“It is the working class telling working class history. This is rare and valuable.”

Around 1,000 local people were involved in making the movie, both onscreen and off.

It was funded by the National Lottery and BBC Scotland.

The amateur cast used real-life experience and passed down tales, to portray the troubled times in Scotland’s mining villages.

David Elliot, director of arts at the British Council in China, where the film will be shown next month, said: “It’s a fine film, beautifully shot and very moving.

“The acting is excellent, amazing given that the cast are the villagers themselves.

“But given that most of them are direct relatives of the mining community from 1926, perhaps this closeness lent an authenticity that professional actors might have struggled with.”

 

Director Robert Rae
Director Robert Rae

 

A spokesman for the Filmhouse cinema, that host the Edinburgh Film Festival, said it stood by its decision to reject the film.

He said: “We watched the film with a view to considering it for public screening at the Filmhouse, but did not deem it of the necessary quality to put in front of a ticket-buying audience within the context of our regular programme.”

Jayne Baxter, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said: “I am proud to be a grand-daughter of a miner and this is just daft.

“I believe this film is clearly good enough for film festivals in Glasgow, Rennes and Beijing and sell- out audiences across Scotland and the rest of the UK have been buying tickets for this film.

“People are flocking to see The Happy Lands because it resonates with real people and their experiences.

“It’s not sentimental at all yet the film is generating a huge emotional response from people – it resonates with what is happening to them and their communities right now.

“It clearly speaks to people in Scotland and around the world. I don’t know what’s not to value, appreciate and admire in this film.”