Films from a post-Industrial city in Northern Britain
The films included here were all made in collaboration with my partner and former Producer Marie Olesen through our production company Autonomi.
From Channel 4 news pieces to BAFTA nominated feature films and Berlin Bear winning short dramas, Autonomi was a formidable creative force in Scottish film-making for more than a decade.
Outspoken and always ready to bite-the-hand that feeds it, Autonomi took film-making out into many inaccessible areas in Scottish society and beyond Internationally.
Autonomi were also never afraid to experiment with hybrid forms of film-making to tell our stories, whether they happened to come from the heart of the Scottish Establishment or from the disenfranchised communities out on Scotland’s social margins.
Beirut DocuDays Official Selection 2005
Chicago International Documentary Festival Official Selection 2003
Detroit International Documentary Festival Official Selection 2003
Melbourne International Film Festival Official Selection 2004
Expression en Corto Mexico Official Selection 2004
UNAM Fes Acatlan Mexico Official Selection 2004
Big Sky Montana International Documentary Festival Official Selection 2004
MovieEye Moscow Documentary Film Festival: Official Selection 2005
Real Life on Film Melbourne Official Selection 2005
A Pirate Radio love story that’s tuned in on a different frequency
A story of love, life and death on a tough housing scheme close to the hard shoulder of Glasgow’s M8 motorway
Bedroom Radio follows the lives of a young couple Gary and Yvonne and their 3-legged pit bull terrier Moji.
Gary (DJ Illusion) dreams of being a star DJ and runs an illegal pirate radio station most nights and weekends from their spare bedroom. That is until he’s raided, arrested and has his equipment confiscated by Police and Government Home-Office officials.
Yvonne (DJ Miss-chief) worried though she is that Gary may face prison if he’s convicted of broadcasting illegally, eventually succumbs and agrees to let Gary buy a new radio transmitter to continue his broadcasts in defiance of the law.
In-between Gary’s pirate radio broadcasts we get to know the couple, finding out that Yvonne was first a mother when she was just 13 and has had 3 children by different Fathers. We also hear about their future dreams together, until tragedy intervenes in their Pirate Radio love story.
A wee gem of a film
(Chicago International Documentary Festival)
A small master piece
(Tue Steen Muller filmkommentaren.dk)
One of the most honest and compassionate films ever about life on a scheme
The Scottish Television Executives who commissioned the film however were divided among themselves as to whether Bedroom Radio was the best or the worst film that they’d ever commissioned. Yet despite their doubts and prejudices, the film went on to screen at festivals internationally and championed by the Scots-language centre as a positive example of a widely spoken but marginalized dialect known as Scots.
Bedroom Radio also became a long-term regular favourite on the UK Community Channel However – and unlike the many cynical and manipulative ‘poverty porn’ documentaries that have since been made about Scottish underclass life – Bedroom Radio as well as being a tragic love story was also that rare thing, in that it gave marginalized young people a genuine voice and a chance to express themselves and dreams in a way that was passionate, compelling and yet at times comical and irreverent.
A Special limited edition DVD which includes a Director’s commentary is available.
Please contact me directly for more information about this
There’s only one race – and that’s the human race
(Chief Inspector Tom Harrigan MBE)
In the aftermath of 9/11 Producer Marie Olesen and myself managed to gain unprecedented and previously unheard of access to a Police Officer in Scotland: Inspector Tom Harrigan as he went about his work as Race relations Co-ordinator for Strathclyde Police.
Tom had started out observing us at political rallies, demonstrations and wherever trouble happened to be kicking-off in Glasgow at the time and as a result of his surveillance of us we ended up filming with him!
It probably wasn’t exactly what his superiors had in mind in a closed Institution like Strathclyde Police when they first sent Tom out to find out who we were and what we were doing.
However the racially motivated murder of a white boy Kris Donald by an Asian gang on Glasgow’s south-side changed all that in the 2 years that we spent filming with Tom. It was a period also in which the war in Iraq, an influx of Asylum seekers, the War on Terror and growing Islamaphobia were all changing the face of Glasgow and city that both Tom and us knew.
While in our final weeks of filming, the G8 summit in Gleneagles and the events on the day of 7thJuly 2005 all meant that the last weeks before Inspector Tom Harrigan retired after a lifetime of service to the Police that our film was going to be far from the PR exercise that the Police had originally envisaged
Screened on BBC Scotland Harrigan’s Beat captures 18 turbulent months in the life of a troubled multi-cultural city and the final dramatic stages in an ‘old-school’ Glasgow Cops career.
GOOD COP (UN BON FLIC’)
An extended version of the film Harrigan’s Beat originally made for the BBC Scotland only without narration
It was screened on TV France 0 in the same week as the Paris riots and met with a very positive press response – even though the TV reviewer thought the front-line/guerilla handheld camera work suggested that the film’s makers had been drinking too much whisky!
GOOD COP PILOT MATERIAL
Pilot material we filmed as our pitch to the BBC for Good Cop.
We’d been struggling for about a year with this and other projects – pitching in the wind – as we often referred to it before we hit the mark at BBC Scotland.
Sadly though it probably really took the murder of 15-year-old Kris Donald by an Asian gang in our Pollokshields, Glasgow neighbourhood to really make the BBC sit-up and take notice of what we were up to and trust us to deliver rather than just supply them with a story – as is often the case with the BBC in Scotland.
The fact that the murder happened just a few streets from where we lived and the unprecedented access to the murder investigation and Strathclyde police via Inspector Tom Harrigan were probably the real reasons we got a gig – rather than our creative abilities as film-makers!
BAFTA SCOTLAND 2008:
Nomination best News and Current Affairs Documentary
CELTIC FILM& TELEVISION FESTIVAL 2008:
Nomination Best Current Affairs Documentary
An unflinching, warts-and-all portrait of a country still struggling to shake-off its image as the ‘Hardman’ of Western Europe
After spending 9 months working on a series of short films about knife crime and territorial gang-fighting in Glasgow (As IT IS) we were eventually commissioned by BBC Scotland to produce: Wasted Nation.
With no mediation or narration by TV presenters Wasted Nation was a documentary study and meditation on violence. A wart’s and all hard-hitting wake-up call struggling with its image as the “Hard Man” of Europe.
Wasted Nation allowed the Victims, Perpetrators, Medics, Families and Police Officers who deal with violence and knife crime on a regular basis to talk openly and frankly about their experiences.
Wasted Nation screened on BBC Scotland and was followed by a live-studio debate
BAFTA SCOTLAND 2009: Nominated Best Feature Film
REFUGEE WEEK FILM FESTIVAL GLASGOW 2009: Opening Film
DOCUMENTA MADRID 2009: Official Selection
DOCU-DAYS BEIRUT 2009: Official Selection
KRAKOW FILM FESTIVAL 2009: Official Selection
!F ISTANBUL FILM FESTIVAL 2010: Official Selection
LONDON KURDISH FILM FESTIVAL 2010: Official Selection
CARRICK-ON-SHANNON 1st KURDISH FILM FESTIVAL 2010
PARIS FESTIVAL OF 4 SCREENS 2010: Official Competition
Screened at film festivals world-wide to critical acclaim, Kurdi was the first feature documentary ever to receive a Scottish BAFTA nomination as best feature-film.
Kurdi is loosely based on the life story of a man whose lost himself, his people, his country and his identity.
However I don’t see KURDI as a film about a ‘victim’
Neither is it a film about a whole race of people who are often portrayed as victims (The Kurds) but instead as a story about a former freedom fighter, exile and being a ‘New Glaswegian’ in a troubled city that has changed for both good and bad since the events of 9/11.
As a Director I adopted an approach on this film of “writing” directly with a camera (something the French New Wave called: ‘Camera Comme Stylo’) rather than following a screenplay or simply making an observational documentary about my subject. This also gave the film’s principal subject/collaborator: Peri Ibrahim the room to tell his story directly while also allowing me the space I needed as a film-maker to simply observe, catch moments and moods in-between scenes.
From a logistical point of view it also allowed us to cross borders and get into places we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to access with a conventional film crew. As a result over the course of the filming, we became like a 2-man ‘Guerrilla unit’ who – rather than fighting – were filming our way from suburban Glasgow through the Bekaa valley (the birth place of the PKK) and into the mountains of Kurdistan and Iraq and Iran with the Peshmerga.
For me Kurdi represents a kind of hybrid digital film-making that crosses the line between fiction and observational documentary story-telling, and it pushes the form to a limit – perhaps even a bit too far. Kurdi was also the first time I’ve added my own written narration and added my voice to a film and it raised in my mind many questions about why people might want a camera pointed at them in the first place:
Can a man really exist without a shadow?
Come to think of it can a shadow exist without a man?
A limited edition DvD including extras and music composed by Tara Jaff is also available.
Please contact me for more information
Those Who Die First (Peshmerga)
More a short film in its own right than a pilot Those Who Dies First (which translates into Kurdish as Peshmerga) was really a road-trip to test both the approach I wanted to adopt to film Kurdi and insure the credibility of Peri’s story.
Over 5 weeks in the Middle East it was a way for me to assure the authenticity of the subject/storyline that we were following and also helped define the work-flow for the filming that would take place in the 2 years that would follow.
In the future I’ll be adding further scenes and out-takes from Kurdi to my blog-posts.
BASTARDS, ORPHANS, WAIFS AND STRAYS
Estate of the Nation
Kurdish Asylum seeker Firsat Dag is murdered on a notorious Glasgow Housing scheme.This extended special report commissioned by the Channel 4 news Indy-fund, explores with unrivalled access the impact his killing had on a housing scheme, where an influx of Asylum seekers was changing the face of a traditionally all-white neighbourhood.
As it turned out the truth behind the headlines proved to be far more complex than the ‘Tesco’s can save the world’ scenario that presenter Mark Easton at first wanted to follow.
So Squalid crew
Filmed over Christmas 2001, Journalist (and now Wire Editor) David Rowan explores the hidden world and airwaves of the UK’s pirate radio subculture.
It takes in the Estates of south London, the high-rises of Birmingham and the Housing schemes of Paisley in Scotland to tell its story about how rebel radio can be big money.
It was while we were working on this news assignment that we first came across Yvonne and Gary: the real life stars of Bedroom Radio
Iranian Hunger Strikers
3 Iranian Asylum seekers whose claims to remain in the UK have been rejected sew up their mouths and begin a Hunger strike in a squalid Glasgow bed sit rather than face deportation back to Iran.
There are 2 versions of this story here:
1) As broadcast and narrated by proxy in London by Sarah Smith at Channel 4 News.
2) As we saw things really happening in Glasgow!
“THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO A BLACK BOY WITH A BIG MOUTH”
Originally commissioned As the Boy from Alva/Trainee Terrorist and then unexplainably decommissioned by channel 4 as a Cutting Edge the material for that story was eventually adopted for inclusion (albeit reluctantly) as my contribution to BBC Scotland’s 10 new Commandments.
This was a series of 10 films made by 10 different film-makers that each explored a point in the European Human Rights Charter.
My contribution follows Human Rights lawyer (and now Sun commentator) Aamer Anwar during the course of his involvement as the defence for Scotland’s first convicted Islamic Terrorist Atif Siddique and Anwar’s subsequent trial for contempt of court.
As a film-maker as well as a truth seeker I still think there is a very powerful story to be told here. A story not just about the War on Terror and a ‘A dumb Terrorist! (as both his family and lawyer called Atif at various times) but also a story about power relations, miscarriages of justice, media collusion and retaining professional integrity in a small country at the end of Europe.
THE FORGOTTEN GLASGOW GIRL
Celebrated in a book by David Greig , in a hammy-musical and now as a mediocre musical feature film this is the story of the lost Glasgow Girl.
Saida Vucaj and her family were forcibly removed from their flat in Glasgow by Home Office officials in a dawn raid and deported back to an uncertain future in Albania.
The material included here was filmed on a fact-finding mission to Albania, in the company of the Actor/Director Peter Mullen and representatives of an NGO for Asylum seekers Positive Action in Housing.
Despite a concerted campaign, that included the use of this material by politicians and celebrities, Saida Vucaj is now in her early 20’s and living in Tirana, Albania: The lost and forgotten Glasgow Girl.
A short-film about CCTV Operators in Glasgow which was first pitched as a story not just about surveillance culture but also about the lives of those who watch the streets of the city 24/7. It’s a job which by degree can be traumatic, boring and at times funny.
The material here was filmed during the course of our work on As It is and subsequently Wasted Nation. The bigger picture that we’d planned however was sadly never commissioned. That however didn’t stop the film’s ambitious young editor “idea-jacking” our project as a series of short 3 minute films he made on channel 4.