Does Scotland need Local Hero 2 to escape the Nouvelle Dreich?

“Nouvelle Dreich” is a phrase I first heard used this week to describe Scotland’s film industry, and it’s one I think I’m about to adopt.

It comes from an interview I carried out with the actor Bill Paterson to promote a new BBC Two documentary which saw him meet up with director Bill Forsyth, 27 years after they made Comfort and Joy. You can find it on iPlayer for the next few days.

Paterson noted that while the French had the exciting Nouvelle Vague in the 1960s, Scotland seems to revel in the dreich and dour, a diet of drugs and alcohol fuelling our filmic output.

Quite where this all started is hard to pinpoint. Watch Bill Douglas’ autobiographical trilogy from the 70s and you’ll not find many laughs in its depiction of a Newcraighall upbringing, but I wonder if 1995’s Trainspotting is more to blame for our present situation.

There’s no denying it’s a good film, but its subject matter cemented a “heroin chic” view of Edinburgh that we’ve been struggling to shake off for over fifteen years.

More recent films such as Wasted and Running in Traffic contain relentless images of drugs, illegal immigrants and sexual abuse which don’t make them an easy watch.

It can’t be denied that we have social problems in this country, the current recession partly to blame for worsening cases of homelessness, debt and drug abuse. Filmmakers should be putting these issues into the spotlight and I wouldn’t advocate hiding them under a sugar-coated veneer.

I just wonder if we need another Bill Forsyth to take a fresh look at Scotland, one which shows both the positive and negative side of living here. Perhaps Trainspotting: The Musical wouldn’t be right, but humour and pathos are often the best way to engage an audience who see enough dreariness on the news.

Anyone for Local Hero 2?


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