Scotland's other kingdoms: reconsidering regional and national identities in a growing small cinema

Martin-Jones, D. (2009) Scotland's other kingdoms: reconsidering regional and national identities in a growing small cinema. In: Murray, J., Farley, F. and Stoneman, R. (eds.) Scottish Cinema Now. Cambridge Scholars Press: Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, pp. 105-121. ISBN 9781443803311

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Given the burgeoning levels of film production in Scotland post-1990, it is tempting, as with any emergent or resurgent national cinema, to seek to examine the ways in which that cinema currently constructs national identity. Yet in the case of New Scottish Cinema this is not always the most fruitful approach to take. This is so for two reasons. Firstly, it runs the risk of imposing a national label upon films that depict specific, regional concerns and identities. Secondly, the three dominant myths of Scotland—those stereotypical images of Tartanry, Kailyard and Clydesidism identified in the seminal collection Scotch Reels as characteristic of cinematic representations of the nation—were themselves based upon specific regions of Scotland (McArthur 1982). Briefly, Tartanry expressed a romanticized view of the Highlands and Islands as a place bypassed by history; Kailyard (or cabbage patch) depicted the parochial life of isolated, Lowland rural working class communities; finally, Clydesidism, constructs the myth of an “authentic,” masculine, working class urban life. Focused in and around the shipyards of Glasgow in the latter decades of the twentieth century when shipbuilding began to decline, Clydesidism in cinema increasingly drew attention to the position of the disenfranchised, post-industrial “hard man”, in opposition to the “feminised” middle classes (Caughie 1990, 13-20; 17). Much New Scottish Cinema is marked by a sophisticated engagement with, or an outright rejection of, these stereotypical images of the “nation,” images which potentially conflate regional imagery and identities with national equivalents. In the discussion that follows I will examine how these “national” myths are either renegotiated or rejected altogether in certain works of New Scottish Cinema, in favour of an examination of regional identities. The examples discussed are: As An Eilean/From The Island (Alexander, GB, 1993), The Winter Guest (Rickman, GB/USA, 1997) and The Acid House (McGuigan, GB, 1998). Such films indicate the extent to which the late twentieth-century diversification and expansion of Scottish film production has ensured that a broader spectrum of regional identities is being constructed in features from Scotland. As An Eilean provides a more sophisticated examination of identity in a small Island community in the Islands than those found in either Tartanry or Kailyard, whilst The Winter Guest and The Acid House both depict life in specific regional locations that are not invested with the same nationally representative resonances as those of, say, Whisky Galore! (Mackendrick, GB, 1949) or The Big Man (Leland, GB, 1990). As a consequence, recognition of the plurality of Scottish regional identities multiplies along with the proliferation of Scottish films. We can begin to examine many representations of different regional “Scotlands”, rather than any one representative Scotland.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Martin-Jones, Professor David
Authors: Martin-Jones, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Publisher:Cambridge Scholars Press

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