Friday, 27 June 2008

EIFF: The New Ten Commandments- review by Peter Gerard

Directors: Kenny Glenaan, Douglas Gordon, Nick Higgins, Irvine Welsh, Mark Cousins, Sana Bilgrami, Alice Nelson, Tilda Swinton, Doug Aubrey, David Graham Scott, Anna Jones
Running Time: 105 mins

Screening: Sat 28 Jun, 13:45/ Sun 29 Jun, 18:00 Filmhouse 1

A collection of ten documentaries led by Glaswegian producer Nick Higgins, "The New Ten Commandments" examines the meaning and relevance of the UN's 60-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights in contemporary Scotland. The ten very different films (by different directors) are held together by each focussing on one of the Rights.

Beginning with David Graham Scott's take on The Right to Assembly, we witness an entertaining tragicomic story about a man protesting against the Queen. This light-hearted and effective film gives way to a series of more serious (and sometimes disturbing) films.

The highlights are The Right Not to be Tortured by artist Douglas Gordon, The Right to Liberty by Irvine Welsh and Mark Cousins and The Right to Privacy by Alice Nelson. Gordon's atmospheric film portrays a suffering sheep trapped in a dark cell before its slaughter. Welsh and Cousins combine a dizzying blur of found footage to summarise the 20 years of Scottish history that Kenny Richey missed while on death row for a crime he did not commit. The Right to Privacy used simple animation to demonstrate the injustice served on a man from Ayr who was seen in a sexual position with his bicycle in his own room.

While most of the films were strong, a couple felt as if they were forced into a more broadcast-friendly style, which seemed odd in the context of the effective experimentation present in the best of the series.

The last film, Freedom of Thought by Mark Cousins and Tilda Swinton, was the biggest disappointment. Though the letters Cousins and Swinton read were beautiful statements on the importance and magic of cinema, it was a shame to contextualise them in such a weakly shot and badly edited film. Further, it was the one film that did not deal with its Commandment effectively. Their thoughts on cinema are indeed worth listening to, but they would have been more enjoyable in the written form.

Altogether, Higgins's project is an impressive and powerful piece of cinema that draws needed attention to human rights issues in Scotland.

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