Monthly Archives: December 2015

Film Review – Hector, and a spotlight on homelessness

Hector Movie Poster

Quicker than a swirl of a lightsaber, the country has embraced the Dark Side. The hotly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens has opened with gross earnings estimated to reach £1.3 billion. So on the weekend of the film’s release, I duly went out to the cinema – but not to see the fate of Han Solo – I went to see the heart-warming Hector, a film about a Glaswegian homeless man.

Hector is the directorial debut of Jake Gavin, known more for his photography skills. But on this showing, a bright film career beckons.

The film has already been hailed by some as the best Christmas movie this season. And this is a film that makes you count your blessings and instills a will to help those less fortunate than yourself. It’s not a shiny, sugary sweet fairytale but a story with a sharp gritty realism and grim settings.

Hec-Mac-Adam

We follow Hector’s journey, and he’s sensitively and expertly played by Peter Mullan. The Glaswegian actor is known for playing some down-right nasty characters. I only saw him in Sunset Song, just a few nights previous – where he was Chris Guthrie’s brutal father, a heinous hateful man with a heart full of demons. But here as Hector, Mullan shows an understanding and a softer touch. With a worn face, grey beard and with sometimes twinkly blue eyes, I would actually like to see him play a modern day Father Christmas in some kind of alternative festive story. But as Hector, he’s a man who’s been dealt a hard hand from life, and his back story unravels during his journey from Glasgow to a London homeless shelter to attend an annual Christmas dinner.

Hector Movie

The film is a stark reminder that for some people life cruelly snatches away those things we hold dear, and the phrase “there but for the grace of god, go I” springs to mind.

Hector and two of his homeless friends, joined by a dog called Braveheart, are sleeping where they can, in doorways, in toilets and under cardboard. There’s the everyday practicalities of being homeless, trying to keep clean, keep charge of your worldly possessions (thugs mug Hector and try to steal from him), and get access to medical help.

Then we join Hector on his journey. He’s suffering from ill-health, limping and using medication to keep pain at bay. There’s lots of motorway shots, as he hitches lifts, and we see the kindness of strangers. The high-vis jackets that “fall off the back of a lorry” and into the hands of the homeless, the church who gives him shelter and the cafes who feed him.

There’s the down points, as Hector tries to reconcile with his estranged family, after he “gave up on life” and disappeared for 15 years, and there’s also the fate and desperation of his homeless friends, Dougie played by Laurie Ventry and the young 18-year-old Hazel, played by Natalie Gavin.

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When he gets to the London shelter we meet Sara, who works there, played by Sarah Solemani. She appears like an angel, a wonderfully kind, non-judgemental and humane character.

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At the shelter we see various sides of homelessness, from the young boy, to a drop-out priest and an injured soldier, to the chancer-like Jimbo – played by Keith Allen – who turns in a good job in this role.

We don’t know their back story, but we still wonder what led them to where they are, and what their fate will be.

The men are treated with care and respect and receive the things we take for granted. Hot water, clean clothes, a bed and a hot meal. And I defy the hardest heart not to break down when a male choir sings a rendition of Abide with Me, to the men who sit quietly with their own thoughts.

This is a sensitively put together film which puts the plight of homelessness to the fore and challenges some perhaps pre-conceived perceptions.

It will also make you want to help others and I hope it leads to some charities receiving more help. There’s lots of great organisations around the country.

The Christmas appeal from  Glasgow City Mission has the tagline “Love Changes Everything” and you can donate £7 to give a homeless person a Christmas meal, while £22 will feed and support a homeless person for a month.

Social Bite is a great social enterprise café who help homeless people. Read more about them here –  Social Bite

and there’s still time to buy into the Social Bite Itison deal, it runs until 22nd December. Donate £5 to help feed a homeless person at Christmas and also help refugees in Europe.

https://www.itison.com/Edinburgh/deals/buy-a-homeless-person-xmas-dinner-social-bite–3

I also love the good work of the Rucksack Project, where the Glasgow arm of this is organised by Lorna McLean. Thousands of rucksacks have been donated and delivered to help those in need.

See more at The Rucksack Project Glasgow who help many charities around the city and surrounding areas including the Simon Community Scotland

If only we could brandish a lightsaber and solve the world’s problems, in this universe and in any universe, no-one should be sleeping on the streets.

Peter Mullan interviewed by The Independent had this to say:

Your new film ‘Hector’ was out last week; ‘Star Wars’ was out this Thursday. That’s big competition. Why should we see ‘Hector’?

When it started off, Star Wars was about the little people taking on the Death Star and now it is the Death Star. So go and see little independent movies in protest against the Death Star. If you really want to help Luke Skywalker, go see Hector.

Read the full interview here: Peter Mullan interview – The Independent

 

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Filed under Charities, Charity, Film Reviews, Films, Glasgow Film Theatre, Scotland, The Rucksack Project

Denise Mina, Glad Café, Glasgow, November 25th, 2015 – Scottish Book Week

Denise Mina

Denise Mina

Celebrated Scottish crime writer Denise Mina appeared at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe as part of Scottish Book Week, which ran during 23rd – 29th November, 2015

Glad Cafe, Glasgow

Glad Café, Glasgow

It was an informal night of chat conducted in an easy relaxed manner by Craig Smillie. Denise was tasked with selecting three favourite songs and books, which she discussed and gave us insights into the writing of her famous crime novels, which include Garnethill, The Dead Hour and Field of Blood, among many others.

Garnethill

She’s a great storyteller and speaker. She drew on her large family background and originally from East Kilbride, we heard how the family moved, 21 times in 18 years. She credited this packing up and moving around, with building up a resilience, and making you a distant observer – useful traits for a writer.

In a rather self-deprecating manner, she described herself as a bit of a “chancer”, and seemed reluctant to take on the handle of author/writer.

She said she took a chance and it worked. She wanted to get some of the ideas that were generated through her studies in forensic crime into a format that could be more accessible and she wanted to open people’s eyes to a new way of understanding the world and society.

She started writing fiction by way of explaining the world she was discovering. She didn’t think anyone would read it or that it would be any good – she was wrong on both counts.

We also heard about her foray into comic writing for DC Thomson and the challenges faced by this very different writing discipline.

She spoke about her collaborations in theatre having worked on plays for Glasgow’s Oran Mor, as well as discussing the film adaptations of her novels. She often signs away film rights to many of her books, thinking they will never get made, and she stated the difficulty of controlling the filming process. She expected the TV version of Field of Blood, which starred Jayd Johnson, David Morrissey and Peter Capaldi, to be awful, but she loved it.

Field of Blood

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BBC’s Field of Blood

Her chosen songs were Amen by Otis Redding, Blue Monday by New Order and Here It Comes Again by The Amazing Snakeheads. Back in the day, before music was as accessible by downloading and streaming, once you got your hands on a record, it was a prized possession. And Denise said she played a record over and over, and over again.

Favourite books were The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov, The Victorians by A N Wilson and Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg. The latter was translated into the film Angel Heart, which starred Mickey Rourke – an adaptation which Denise didn’t like.

Scotland seems to have a burgeoning crime writers circle, which includes established authors ranging from Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Ian Rankin, while there is still space for new talent, such as Matt Bendoris, to join the ranks.

And Denise’s chat seemed to suggest there was a certain crime community hub in Scotland. In the 1980’s the music scene attracted the attention of those searching for the next Orange Juice or Aztec Camera, and now the Scottish crime writing circle brings its own kudos. There’s an acceptance that if it comes from Scotland, it’s quality writing and worth a look.

All that remains is for us to translate more of this creative crime writing talent to the big screen. We haven’t quite managed to rival the successes of our Nordic counterparts who bring us quality TV dramas such as The Killing and The Bridge. We’ve certainly got the talent and Scotland as a country, with its dark, grittiness and character, lends itself easily as a cinematic backdrop.

Book Week Scotland 2015

 

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Filed under Books, Cafes, Glasgow, Scotland, Writers and Writing

Scottish Ballet Winter Season 2015 – Cinderella

Scottish Ballet - Cinderella

During the festive season there’s a few things you can be sure of. John Lewis bringing you a heart-rending advert, parents searching for the latest must-have toys, shops seducing you with sequins making you buy an impractical party dress you’ll only wear once, while all your good taste disappears as soon as you pull on that novelty jumper with the flashing lights. And after a few drinks you’ll be misty-eyed, singing The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York, while hugging your pals. Yes, it’s the season to be silly.

But there is one reassuringly stylish event in the festive calendar, and it’s from Scottish Ballet, who inject some class into Christmas. Every year they pull out the stops to bring a sparkling and magical seasonal ballet to life on stage.

This year it’s the turn of one of our favourite rags-to-riches stories. Where the poor girl really does get it all, and there’s more sparkles than you can shake a fairy godmother wand at.

Cinderella is about to undergo her transformation and find her beau, assisted by a glass slipper and a little fairy magic.

But before the festive fun kicked off, the award winning company warmed up with their autumn season, and at a special bloggers’ preview event, I got behind the scenes at the Ballet’s headquarters located in Glasgow’s Tramway.

The autumn season was a double bill consisting of Elsa Canasta by Javier de Frutos and Motion of Displacement by Bryan Arias. An informal chat to the dancers revealed the challenges of working side by side on two very different ballets, each bringing a choreographer with an individual style and method. A tour of the costume department lead to the most important part of a dancer’s attire – their shoes.

Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet

Scottish Ballet

As a joiner needs a screwdriver, a ballet dancer needs their shoes. They are their tools of their trade. A dancer can use up to three pairs of shoes per performance, and Scottish Ballet uses over 2,000 pairs of shows during each winter season. Each pair of shoes costs £40. Therefore the company spends more than £20,000 on shoes each winter. That’s enough to keep Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex & The City girlfriends in Manolo Blahnik’s for a long time.

Scottish Ballet have cleverly launched their own Cinderella Shoe Appeal, and it’s where you can get involved by contributing to the cost of a dancer’s shoes. See more about this on their website and see the film below.

Meanwhile, this production of Cinderella, created by Christopher Hampson for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2007, comes to Scotland for its European premiere.

The show opened at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on December 5th and remains there until the 31st. Then with a wave of a fairy godmother wand – it will cast its spell over Glasgow’s Theatre Royal in January before visiting Aberdeen and Inverness. For a list of dates and venues, see below and get a glimpse of the magic by having a peek at the official Scottish Ballet trailer.

 

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Sat 5 – Thu 31 Dec 2015
Box Office: 0131 529 6000
Book online
Full venue details

Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Tue 12 – Sat 16 Jan 2016
Box Office: 0844 871 7647
Book online
Full venue details

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
Wed 20 – Sat 23 Jan 2016
Box Office: 01224 641122
Book online
Full venue details

Eden Court, Inverness
Wed 27 – Sat 30 Jan 2016
Box Office: 01463 234 234
Book online
Full venue details

 

 

 

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Filed under Scotland, Scottish Ballet, Theatre reviews, Tramway Glasgow

The Enchanted Forest, Faskally Wood, Pitlochry, Scotland – October 2015

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Scotland’s award-winning event returned to Faskally Wood in Perthshire this October and again proved why it’s such a success by putting on another stunning show.

The Enchanted Forest choose this year’s theme to be one of “Flux” focussing on the ebbs and flows of change and movement, waves and energy. I’m a regular visitor to this event and this year was their best so far. It smashed all previous records by attracting over 62,000 visitors to the Perthshire area, increased tourism and boosted local charities. PKAVS (Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services), Scottish Autism and CHAS all benefitted from this year’s show through ticket sales for the opening night. They each received a cheque for £2500.

Bringing together the creative talents of Kate Bonney, Simon Hayes (lighting designers), RJ McConnell and Jon Beales (sound designers), this year’s show was a stunning fusion of lights, music and some amazing aerial acrobatics.

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