In career spanning nearly 20 years, from 1972-1991, Scottish film-maker Bill Douglas only made 4 films – and three of those were shorts. And yet he was highly acclaimed, winning the Silver Bear at Venice for his first film, garnering praise from the likes of Lindsay Anderson, Francois Truffaut and Satyjit Ray, and picking up the ‘film of the year award’ in a poll in the Independent newspaper for COMRADES (1987). This documentary explores Bill Douglas’s remarkable struggle from childhood poverty to becoming a truly great, and unique, film-maker.
Screenings: 8th Buenos Aires International Festival for Independent Cinema; National Film Theatre.
For visual and aural intensity, Bill Douglas' work is among the most remarkable in British cinema. His autobiographical black-and-white 'Trilogy' and single feature 'Comrades' offer the last word in austerity, making his exclusion from the BBC's 'British Film Forever' programme on social realism especially odd. But then he was, as Andy Kimpton-Nye's fine documentary notes, ever the contrarian. His low output was due to his reputation as 'difficult' as much as the film industry's short-sightedness, but Douglas had to fight for everything. His lifelong companionship with Peter Jewell, a fellow National Serviceman, remained the only other constant in his life. Brought up in poverty, and always struggling for funding, he nonetheless commanded fierce loyalty (as reflected in effusive tributes from all and sundry here) and created works with their own unmistakable internal narratives. Kimpton-Nye's film works well as a portrait of an oft-forgotten talent, but even better as an account of a strange, charming friendship forged in adversity. Gabriel Tate (Time Out)
A fine documentary by Andy Kimpton-Nye... Philip French (The Observer)