Hebridean Film Festival returns to show remote communities’ fight for survival

'Haida Modern', an evocative documentary exploring how the artist Robert Davidson brought Haida culture in British Columbia back to its people, makes its UK premiere at Hebrides International Film Festival 2021

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The Hebrides International Film Festival is back this month after its cancellation last year due to the pandemic, promising to bring a celebration of independent global cinema to venues across the Outer Hebrides.

From July 19-24 , 43 films from 16 countries will be shown in 10 venues along the chain of islands from the Port of Ness on Lewis to Castlebay on Barra, with screenings of Iorram (Scotland), the first feature length documentary for cinema presented entirely in Scottish Gaelic, and the UK premieres of the multi-award-winning Haida Modern (Canada) and Manry at Sea (USA).

‘Manry at Sea: In The Wake of a Dream’, directed by Steve Wystrach, tells the story of Robert Manry, a typical middle-aged suburbanite in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1965. However, his colleagues at the Plain Dealer newspaper were shocked to learn he had just set sail on a solo voyage across the Atlantic in his 13½-foot sloop, Tinkerbelle. By the time his 78-day odyssey ended in England, Manry was the target of a wild journalistic arms race, the guest of honour to a welcoming committee of 20,000 Britons, and had become a hero to his countrymen – and to dreamers everywhere.

The programme also brings Ice on Fire – produced and directed by Leonardo DiCaprio – to Hebridean audiences. The film asks: ‘Are we going to let climate change destroy civilisation, or will we act on technologies that can reverse it?’

‘The Hebrides International Film Festival (HIFF) continues its central themes of environmentalism and the fight for survival of island communities and cultures around the world,’ organisers said, ‘and the programme proves once again that for HIFF, the global is truly local.

‘This year’s film programme has four strands – feature documentaries, drama features, children’s features and a strand for new short films. Amongst the countries of origin of films in this year’s programme are new features from Greenland, Turkey, Japan, Ireland and South Africa, along with New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Denmark, Latvia, Romania and from across the UK.’

Festival Producer Muriel Ann Macleod said: ‘The amazing dramas featured in the programme connect us with communities across the globe. The human issues in Fire Will Come or Losing Alaska are not so different from island life where many communities and local people are living in areas where the global climate crisis is making a much greater impact.

‘HIFF’s programme this year highlights how many communities are adapting and making change to try to reduce their carbon footprint and to preserve the planet. Many contemporary film-makers are focusing on positive solutions and on the practical changes we can make rather than just telling us about the problems.’

This year’s programme also features on-line film masterclasses from Kenneth Sorrento, Director, The Fight for Greenland, and Rick Rosenthal, Director of Whale Wisdom.

With last year’s event wiped out by Covid-19, this year’s festival goes ahead in a sense of a celebration of the resilience of island communities in the face of adversity, and even features HIFF’s first outdoor screening programme.