Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Happy Lands

The Fife thread continues. Following The Fence Collective tour, we now welcome a delegation which includes Theatre Workshop Scotland, the National Mining Museum and a few locals from the village of Carhill, all with Fife connections. 
And why is this motley assortment in Beijing? Interesting story. A year ago we organized a study tour of Scottish museums for some Chinese museums officials. It included a visit to the National Mining Museum in Newtongrange and while there the Director of the China National Film Museum, Mr Yang Yongan, took an interest in a film that was being made about the mining communities in Fife, specifically about the 1926 strike. The film is called The Happy Lands, and was directed by Robert Rae of Theatre Workshop Scotland. All the actors are non-professionals from the community itself. It took four years to make and was finally finished this summer.
Given that it hasn't yet had a UK premiere, it's somewhat odd that it's first full public screening is in China, but after watching the film and attending the accompanying forum, I begin to see the attraction to Mr Yang. The fledgling British Communist Party plays a small but sympathetic role throughout the film's story, supporting the striking miners and their families. In any case, it's a fine film, beautifully shot and very moving. The acting is excellent - amazing given that the cast are the villagers themselves. But given that most of them are direct relatives of the mining community from 1926, perhaps this closeness lent an authenticity that professional actors might have struggled with. Three of the cast came to Beijing: they were delightful.

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