The world has had to slow down over the past eighteen months. Our rhythms have been disrupted; revealing the dysfunction that lies beneath, normally drowned out by the thunderous drone of growth-and-progress time.
It's within this setting that a new short film programme, commissioned by the Scottish Documentary Institute's Bridging the Gap, centres around the theme 'Mobile'. At a time of global pause, what does it mean to find movement?
Five Scottish and Northern Irish filmmakers arrive at different answers through the medium of creative documentary. In Prosopagnosia, Steven Fraser’s deeply personal exploration of neurodivergence and face-blindness, movement is visible in the technical style of stop-motion animation; in Rowan Ings’ naturalistic West Country, it’s embedded in the tactile labour of farm work. A common strand runs through all five stories: a tenuous relationship to time. The subjects of these documentaries exist in states of liminality, experiencing the pull of both an fragmented past and an uncertain future. Movement isn’t linear. It’s a risk taken, a question asked. Like the endurance runners in Lia Campbell’s Run With Her, we place one foot in front of the other, hoping that the next step takes us along the right path.
Two shorts in the programme stand out - Daniel Cook’s The Bayview and Laura Wadha’s Born in Damascus. The Bayview is a quietly arresting portrait of a Northeast Scottish hotel run by American mother Susie and her son Matt, who is of Tongan heritage. Together, they welcome international fishermen hailing from the Philippines to Sri Lanka. Though the Bayview’s residents are temporary, the documentary charts how the friendships forged within its walls have transformed it into a beacon of multicultural solidarity in perpetually unkind times. Ghanain fishermen tell Susie her cooking reminds them of home; faced by the precarity of their immigration status in the UK (only exacerbated by the pandemic), the Bayview is an invaluable source of comfort on foreign shores.
Born in Damascus is another story of displacement, told through the digital reconnection of Syrian-Scottish filmmaker Wadha with her cousin Lujain, who left Syria for Canada when the war broke out 10 years ago. Together, they go through decade-old archive footage of their time in Syria, reflecting on their relationships to a land whose past and future have been stolen. Wadha’s fascinating documentary stitches together home videos, screen-recorded Facetime calls, and Instagram feeds to ruminate on memory, trauma, and connection. As wartime overlaps with online-time and pandemic-time, Born in Damascus explores the deeply human need to document our lives, and resist how violence and isolation shatter the relationships that tether us.
Bridging the Gap: Mobile approaches the idea of 'movement' with imagination and ambivalence. Exploring our relationships to past memories, the tremulous present, and unpromised futures, these shorts demonstrate how much there is to gain from staying attuned to our collective uncertainty as we continue to move – and live – in unknown time.