THE world’s first festival of folk cinema is back again after its successful debut last year.

The Folk Film Gathering in Edinburgh is a celebration of the different moments in place and time when world cinema – and Scottish cinema in particular – has engaged with working class and subaltern experience.

This year the festival has collected a series of rare, celebrated international films, and examines the work of celebrated Scottish and British filmmakers alongside films from Italy, Spain and Ethiopia.

It provides the chance to see rare gems of Scottish cinema such as Venus Peter in 35mm and the newly restored Shepherds of Berneray. The festival is also hosting the Scottish premiere of Sundance hit Songs My Brothers Taught Me, and is welcoming guests such as singer Vashti Bunyan, the Amber Collective, and the renowned Scottish producer of Seachd and Bannan, Christopher Young.

Each screening will be introduced by tales from one of TradFest’s traditional Scottish storytellers to explore the connections between Scottish oral tradition and storytelling on the big screen.

This year the Gathering’s programme focuses on a central theme of animals: sheep, goats, horses, cows, lions, whales and herring, and the stories that bind them to communities.

The programme also explores children’s perspectives, storytelling and issues of land reform.


SHEPHERDS of Berneray from Allen Moore and Jack Shea is a newly restored poetic documentary about the lives of a community of shepherds in the Outer Hebrides. With a painterly sense of light and an ear for Hebridean song and story traditions, the film paints a sincere portrait of a community on the verge of change. The question and answer session afterwards will be hosted by social geographer Fraser MacDonald, with Moore, Shea’s widow, Yvonne Baginsky, and acclaimed singer Vashti Bunyan who travelled to Berneray in the early 70s.

There is also a rare chance to see a classic of Scottish cinema, Venus Peter, on the big screen. Growing up in 1940s Stromness in Orkney among a family of fishermen, Peter’s life is deeply influenced by dreams, his grandparents’ folk tales and his own powerful imagination. The screening is to be followed by a question and answer session with Scottish film producer of Bannan and Seachd, Christopher Young who is also producer of TV hit The Inbetweeners.

Other highlights include the opportunity to see Timothy Neat’s seminal Scottish documentaries on the big screen, followed by a discussion with the filmmaker himself, hosted by Donald Smith. One of Neat’s numerous collaborations with Hamish Henderson, The Summer Walkers (1967), documents the timeless culture of Scottish travellers, featuring appearances from celebrated icons of the folk revival – the Stewarts of Blair, Duncan Williamson, Willie MacPhee, Essie Stewart, and Eddie Davies. One of Neat’s later films, Journey to a Kingdom (1992) joins Hamish Henderson on a playful road trip to the North East of Scotland, provoking considerable thought, laughter, and insight along the way.


QUESTIONS about land reform are raised by Lost Treasure by Dawn Cine, the Scottish socialist filmmaking collective. This is the first Edinburgh screening of the special commission by Glasgow Short Film Festival which features a new live score from Wounded Knee and Swimmer One. In 1956 the Glasgow-based collective embarked on an ambitious project confronting Scotland’s rural depopulation crisis. Lost Treasure is a beautifully atmospheric audio-visual performance responding to the abandoned film assembled by filmmaker Minttu Mantinea and accompanied live by musicians Drew Wright (aka Wounded Knee) and Hamish Brown (Swimmer One).

Harvest 3000 Years is a striking work of Ethiopian cinema fusing traditional oral culture with cinematic poetry and a classic of the socialist, anti-imperialist Third Cinema movement. Reminiscent of John McGrath’s celebrated The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil, and highly pertinent to Scotland’s long history of land reform, it tells the story of a family of peasants rising up against their oppressive landlord in a background of day-to-day rhythms of work and communal storytelling.


The festival is also offering the opportunity to see the essential work of Tyneside’s Amber Collective. This will be one of the first times the collective’s Eden Valley has been shown in Scotland in 35mm and there will be a question and answer session afterwards with the filmmakers. The collective’s work is rooted in social documentary.

From Spain comes Vacas which centres on an act of wartime cowardice that comes to haunt three generations of Basque country farmers. Deeply immersed in Basque traditions – notably featuring a stunning, traditional “aizcolari” woodcutting sequence – Julio Medem’s masterpiece marries the mythical with the historical.


SONGS My Brothers Taught Me is a gentle portrait of a community under pressure. Chloe Zhao’s debut is a considered collaboration with Native American residents living on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Shot entirely on location featuring a remarkable cast of non-actors, this is a moving testament to community dignity and the ties that bind.

Padre Padrone has been described as one of the world’s few truly animist films. A classic of Italian cinema it features some of the most vivid imagery ever committed to screen. It is a magical realist account of the life of a young Sardinian shepherd and tells the story of Gavino, an intense young man in the shadow of his overbearing father who is taken out of school to look after his family’s goats in Sardinia’s mountain country.

The Folk Film Gathering is a partnership between Transgressive North, Edinburgh Filmhouse and TradFest. It’s at Edinburgh Filmhouse from April 28-May 12. See