Central Scotland Documentary Festival Returns to Get Audiences Talking

Now in its 7th year, the festival runs from Thursday 2 – Monday 6 November 2023 at Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling’s cultural hub

  • 30 films are set to be screened at venues across Stirling including Macrobert’s Filmhouse, Macrobert Moviehouse Plean and debuting this year - The Engine Shed.
  • This year’s festival will play host to 1 world premiere, 3 European premieres, 4 UK premieres and 10 Scottish premieres .
  • As this year marks the 125th anniversary of the ‘father of documentary’ John Grierson, the festival looks back on his inimitable career with a double bill retrospective screenings of two Grierson classics – Night Mailand Drifters .
  • This year introduces the festival’s Doc, Dinner and Drink screenings – audiences can enjoy a documentary, a main course and an alcoholic or soft drink all for the price of a single ticket.
  • The 2023 Audience and Jury awards will be presented on Monday 6 November.

The Central Scotland Documentary Festival is back and better than ever, proudly presenting 30 films that reflect the true diversity and quality of documentary filmmaking being made in the world today. For the first time the Festival will be presented in other screening venues in addition to Macrobert Arts Centre’s Playhouse, with the new Macrobert Moviehouse Plean playing a key role. Audiences can also look forward to experiencing festival films in the stunning surroundings of The Engine Shed .

Since launching in 2017, the festival has been dedicated to connecting audiences with the very best in documentary filmmaking; stoking conversation and inspiring action well after the film has finished. This year’s opening film is Choose Irvine Welsh- a kinetic and riotous celebration of a Scottish literary icon packed to the brim with never before heard stories and revelations. The screening will be followed by an in-person Q&A with director Ian Jefferies.

This year’s festival also marks the 125th anniversary of local legend and the ‘father of documentary’ John Grierson , and to celebrate the occasion the festival proudly presents a double bill of two of his most enduring works - Night Mailand Drifters. Narrated by Grierson, Night Mail is Harry Watt and Basil Wright's study of the down postal express, which stands as a beacon for John Grierson's original purpose for documentary - to make the working man the hero of the screen. Another seminal film in British documentary history - Drifters is Grierson’s study of the lives of North Sea herring fishermen. For this special presentation of the film, there will be live piano accompaniment by Forrester Pyke.

The festival is proud to present the World Premiere of Gerry’s Pompei, a fascinating insight into the mind of Gerard Dalton, who from 1983 until his death in 2019 transformed his one-bedroom ground-floor flat and garden into something extraordinary. Through a unique landscape of handmade sculptures and architectural models, Gerard explored the shared histories of the UK and his native Ireland. As neighbours and friends campaign to keep Gerry’s Pompeii in situ, this film investigates the poignant mystery of what inspired him.

This year’s European premieres include Daniele Rugo’s The Soil and The Sea , a heart-rending but vital investigation of the more than 100 untouched mass graves in Lebanon – found underneath gardens, schools, cafes and hotel - and the thousands of families that still await a missing relative or at least a bone to bury.

Also screening in Europe for the first time is Past Polo Future - Sarah Paar’s deeply personal film about her shared journey with cinematographer Julia, as they set off in a silver polo to visit four women from Sarah’s childhood who were ready to tear it all down in the 80s. Their non-conformist attitude paved ways, but Sarah and Julia are surprised to find the women distancing themselves from each other with the same condition that once made them rebels.

Beyond a Jokefollows comedian Adam Rowe as he sets out to explore the question: what is the role of comedy in today’s increasingly divided and hostile world? Throughout the film, Rowe sets himself the challenge of delivering a brand-new stand-up routine to an audience who’s sensibilities directly clash with the jokes he is set to tell.

There is also a host of films having their UK Premiere at CSDF 2023, including Postcards from the 48%, a documentary about those who voted Remain giving an incisive look at the people behind the statistics. There will be a post-screening discussion with David Nicholas Wilkinson where he will be presented with a new annual award, The Stirling Award for Achievement in Documentary.

Paved Paradise offers a playful look at an increasingly serious issue: the loss of biodiversity due to human use of land. The film follows biologist Hidde Boersma as she ventures on a journey of discovery with filmmaker Karsten de Vreugd to unravel the current agricultural problems.

Chagrin Valley focuses on an assisted living facility for dementia sufferers, which is also home to a fragile and aging population. Punctuated by fleeting conflicts, confusion and long-awaited family visits, the film is a caring enquiry into our relationship with old age and a glimpse into the substance of our collective dreams.

Don’t Worry About Indiafollows an Indian filmmaker as he returns to his homeland during the national elections. While his privileged upper-class family doesn’t want to talk about politics, the cleaners, cooks and drivers, who have been working for the family for years, do. What unfolds in front of the filmmaker's camera, is an insightful and often disturbing story about how the world's biggest democracy has become rooted in inequality and right-wing populism.

Filmed days before her final live recording in New York City, jazz legend Carol Sloane reflects on her storied but largely unknown career in Sloane: A Jazz Singer . Through rare archival footage, intimate moments with Sloane, and enlightening commentary from industry notables, we learn of this singular artist’s adherence to her passion against great odds, and are invited to examine the meaning of success in a world where "art don't pay.”

Being shown in Scotland for the first time is The Gullspång Miracle , a story about two sisters who buy an apartment in a small Swedish town after a divine premonition. To their surprise, the seller looks identical to their older sister who died by suicide 30 years earlier. What begins as an eerie story of family reunification soon becomes a Pandora's Box as all three women's lives spiral out of control.

Also showing in Scotland for the first time is Lands End - A journey of ups and downs, following Barney Page as he rides the length of the British Isles on his skateboard in memory of his friend Ben Raemers. Lands End seeks to shine a light on the darkness of suicide and discusses how we can turn the corner on Mental Health.

David Nicholas Wilkinson’s The First Film follows the filmmaker’s 33 year quest to prove that in October 1888, Louis Le Prince produced the world's first films in Leeds. A fascinating investigation into his work and mysterious death, which raises fundamental questions about who can truly claim the glory of creating the first moving image film.

The Festival will also host the Scottish premiere of Jude Chehab’s Q, which depicts the insidious influence of a secretive matriarchal religious order in Lebanon on three generations of women in the Chehab family. A masterful portrait of the toll that decades of unrequited love, lost hope, abuse and despair take on a person, Q is a multi-generational tale of the eternal search for meaning.

The Ice Mile shows both the beauty and adventure in outdoor swimming as it follows Becca’s journey over the course of a year training for an ‘ice mile’. The film takes us through the beauty and the harshness of UK landscapes through the exploration of bodies of water, celebrating our natural spaces – from mountain tarns to the ocean that surrounds us.

Frank and morbidly funny Handle With Extreme Care gives fascinating insight into daily life for a New York mortuary struggling to provide a resting place for the dead at the height of the Covid crisis. Bowie Alexander and Patrick Ginnetty’s darkly humorous film offers a different perspective on what life was like as the Covid crisis reached a critical point.

In Great Photo, Lovely Life, photojournalist Amanda Mustard returns home to Pennsylvania to investigate the sexual abuse crimes committed by her grandfather. A visual whirlwind of memories from her family’s archive unravels a world of secrets through interviews, photographs and home movies. Filmed over the course of eight years and told from the unique perspective of both survivors and perpetrator, this powerful portrait of intergenerational trauma will be followed by a virtual Q&A.

Central Scotland Documentary Festival is also proud to champion a variety of Scottish stories in this year’s programme, including A Cat Called Dom from Leith-based filmmakers Will Anderson, which follows his relationship with his mother and their journey following the diagnosis of her cancer. Whilst alone, Will privately keeps counsel with an animated cat called Dom - a curious character living inside his computer screen who interjects with observations, questions and actions that shed a light on his feelings to a darkly humorous and often poignant effect. Macrobert Moviehouse Plean will host the first showing of this film at the Festival, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Will Anderson, before the film screens at Macrobert’s Playhouse the following day.

The festival will also be screening a story that focuses on a key part of its surrounding geography - screened as a special event at The Engine Shed, The Antonine Wall: a 37-Mile Landmark takes us on a journey along the World Heritage site. On the way, discover the diversity of the landscape and people living along the former frontier of the Roman Empire. The film captures a valuable record of Scotland’s largest Roman monument, but also a remarkable snapshot of life in Central Scotland in both the 1950s and in 2022.

The Eternal Memoryfollows Augusto Góngora, a veteran Chilean journalist and prominent chronicler of the crimes of the Pinochet regime, and Paulina Urrutia, actress, activist and politician, who have been a tight-knit loving couple for over 20 years. Góngora was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s eight years ago and now they both face the inexorable and accelerating descent of his physical and mental powers together. Heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, the story of Paulina’s warm and uncompromising dedication and Augusto’s fierce fight to hold on to his identity is a deeply affecting testimony to their love.

In My Brother Bob, filmmaker Will Norman uses flashes of recovered speech to examine his brother’s quality of life, after severe seizures leave Bob unable to walk or talk. Bob’s carers build his life around his limited abilities and his mum adopts mindfulness after witnessing how one can derive great pleasure from small moments.

Groundbreaking documentary Is There Anybody Out There? follows filmmaker Ella Glendining’s global search for someone with a body that looks like hers, and explores what it takes to love yourself fiercely as a disabled person in an ableist world.

42 years ago, in the summer of 1981, a group of 36 women left their homes and marched from Cardiff to Greenham Common to protest against the American Cruise missiles that were going to be deployed in the UK as part of the Cold War response. InSew To Say, Thalia, one of the original marchers and founders of the camp, shares the untold story of the longest feminist protest in British history and reflects on how collective action changed the lives of the women of Greenham Common and inspired several generations.

Armed with 30 years of home video, 75,000 family photos and three tightly fit superhero costumes, director Christian Einshøj ventures into landscapes of long lost time, in an attempt to confront a 25 year old tragedy, and the hidden wounds left in its wake. The Mountains is a story of fathers and sons, and all the ways in which we flee instead of talking about that which hurts, and of the redemption that can follow when the silence is eventually breached.

Made over six years, Your Fat Friendfollows director Jeanie Finlay as she charts the rise of writer and activist Aubrey Gordon from anonymous blogger to NY Times best-selling author and beloved podcaster. Her aim? A paradigm shift in the way in which we see fat people and the fat on our own bodies. Her life changing work has brought her an ardent, international audience but also threats to her life. This is a film about fatness, family, the complexities of change, and the deep, messy feeling we hold about our bodies.

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a deeply moving, intimate and breathtaking approach to issues of trauma, healing, and community. With an authentic voice and authority born of their own heritage, filmmaker Anna Hints has created a transformative experience of being human within a female body, showing women ‘as they are’ with great emotional veracity and deep empathy.

The closing documentary of this year’s festival is Tish, Paul Sng’s powerful film that celebrates the work of social documentary photographer and trailblazer Tish Murtha. Tish’s commitment to fighting for the lives of working-class communities in the 1970s and 80s North East England are intimately captured in her striking black and white photography – creating a powerful record of a world decimated by Thatcherism. The film follows Tish’s daughter Ella as she revisits key moments from her mother’s life and work – ensuring her remarkable legacy is recognized. There will be a post-screening Q&A with director Paul Sng.

15 films in this year’s programme are eligible for the Jury Award and Audience Award, with a prize of £1000 available for each award. The winners will be announced on Monday 6 November.

Short documentary films made by Stirling University students will also be screened before some of the films in the Festival, and David Willkinson will be holding a masterclass with students on Monday 6 November in what continues to be an important partnership with the University’s Film and Media department.

Grahame Reid, Head Curator for Cent Scot Doc Fest has said: “Since launching the Festival in 2017, we have showcased more than 130 documentaries on all matter of topics, yet the aim of the festival has never changed and that is to start conversation. Whether it be opening film Choose Irvine Welsh or closing title Tish, our special Doc, Dinner and Drink screenings, David Wilkinson receiving the first Stirling Award for Achievement or simply cramming in as many screenings across all 5 days, I encourage you to be entertained, be impassioned and be vocal.”

Tickets from £4.50 available to book now at https://www.macrobertartscentre.org/cs-doc-fest

Paved Paradise screens on the 3rd November

Chargin Valley screens on the 4th November