Burning Ice at Filmhouse, Edinburgh
Impressions, as we are all forced to confront at some point in our lives, are key. The city of Edinburgh, for example, has got it sussed when it comes to impressions – our first visit two years ago left an indelible appreciation for its charms and, in June 2011, it did an excellent job of pretending to be November. Mind you, there’s nothing like a hefty dose of rain and temperatures struggling to get out of single figures to appease the guilt of spending some of your ‘summer’ holiday in a cinema watching a documentary about climate change.
Conversely, impressions are not my personal forte, perhaps evidenced by a dislike of photos of myself appearing on the internet (and nor can I do a decent Frank Spencer). So having made arrangements to meet Edinburgh-based blogger Milo McLaughlin in the Filmhouse café-bar, he didn’t have much to go on when scanning faces in the crowd. Quite what he made of this we never got to discuss, but fortunately I had a much better idea of what Milo looked like, and once spotted we duly chatted away over a few beers for what felt like much less than the ninety minutes it actually was.
It was a fitting meeting in several respects – the Repository 2’s first post was on the subject of independent cinema (indeed, one of the responses to that post was the spark that ignited the ‘tour of the indies’, resulting in me and my better half putting a visit to Filmhouse on the to-do list). And not long after the birth of the blog I came across Milo’s own current project – ‘The Clear-Minded Creative’.
The thoughtful content of posts on the C-MC – alongside Milo’s willingness to both discuss matters of creativity with, and provide encouragement to, his readers – has proved to be a real inspiration in the first half of 2011. I’ve started to build a network of ‘creative contacts’ as a result, and I’ve felt more confident in producing and sharing work. It’s even been a consistent source of feedback, to the point that I submitted a fledgling poetry effort (that might otherwise have remained untouched) to a magazine and it is due to be my first published poem.
All things considered, then, it was a pleasure to buy Milo a beer and talk matters of life, the universe and creativity; even more so in the slightly hectic surroundings of Filmhouse’s café-bar. Maybe it was the ceaseless rain outside, maybe it was the matter of being in the middle of the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF); maybe it was the ‘2-for-1 Tuesday’ offer on tickets, maybe Filmhouse is just a popular place to hang out. Or maybe ALL of those reasons together accounted for the bustle.
Whatever, it felt a vibrant place to be, and with a well-stocked bar and even-better-stocked cake counter (as well as a tempting menu of mains that we returned to sample the following evening) it more than catered for our needs. And what of the cinematic offerings? While the 2011 EIFF has come in for a good deal of criticism from seasoned festivalgoers and more experienced commentators than me, there can be little doubt that the regular movie-fare is an enticing selection of new and classic cinema.
You wouldn’t turn your nose up at the programmes offered by any of the stops on the tour, but the Filmhouse brochure for July seemed to offer a selection with that little bit more diversity – and therefore temptation to never leave(!) – than anywhere else so far. Burning Ice was our film to focus on, however, and thanks to chatting with Milo for as long as we possibly could before the 8pm start, we shuffled our way to a couple of seats in a dark ‘Filmhouse 1’ a couple of minutes into a preceding short film. The synopsis for the documentary stated, in a rather matter-of-fact fashion, that a group of artists (including Jarvis Cocker and KT Tunstall) visited the Arctic to witness the effects of climate change before performing at the Latitude festival.
Such sparse information did not make clear that the two events were related: the trip was a tour of Greenlandic communities and melting glaciers, run by the Cape Farewell project, from which the artists would draw inspiration to produce songs, comedy material, photography, or something else entirely (depending upon their creative specialism). Quite how you measure the success of such a scheme is another matter – the group was weighted significantly toward musicians, and given that songs perhaps have the greatest potential to be abstract in dealing with their subject matter, the sung material was arguably less effective in engaging an audience than, say, the stand-up written by Marcus Brigstocke.
For my money, it would have benefited from at least one other comedian, though the greatest benefit of all might have been to exorcise the quote by poet Lemn Sissay who went from the valid point that climate change will affect poor people most, to the unfounded assertion that climate change is about race. Maybe it was the manner in which it was edited, but that really got my back up… Ultimately, though, where Burning Ice was most effective was the depiction of Greenland life, and the appreciation by the artists on the expedition for both that and the work of the scientists.
Unfortunately, I am unable to report any further on what the screen itself was like, because the effect of the pint-and-a-half of beer I drank (shocking…) was that I could make it through the film more than comfortably, but needed to head straight for the toilet before the lights came up. As a way to end the latest stop on the ‘tour of the indies’ it might be considered anti-climactic, but Filmhouse had already ensured that the Scottish leg of proceedings had been an outstanding success.
There is at least one cinematic enticement to return to Edinburgh sometime, and that is the Cameo cinema, just down the road from Filmhouse. We would have visited this time but for influences out of our control. One thing is for sure – it will have to go some to meet Filmhouse’s standards, but that is what happens when a venue makes such a good impression…