Activists take aim at Mull hunt movie

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IT FEATURES gory and gut-wrenching footage of hunters becoming the hunted, as a group of young deer-stalkers on a Scottish island are kidnapped and tortured by hardcore animal rights activists.

But a controversial new film which seeks to the blur the line between reality and fiction has incurred the wrath of anti-hunting groups after its portrayal of activists as violent thugs.

Blooded, which is released this Friday, tells the story of a hunting trip on the Isle of Mull which goes awry when the protagonists are abducted by an extremist group known as the Real Animal League (RAL) and forced into a gruesome game of cat and mouse.

It stars well-connected actress Isabella Calthorpe, once talked of as a bride for Prince William

The film, billed as a "docudrama," blends grainy camcorder footage of the hunters' ordeal, reconstructions and interviews with survivors. Purportedly based on a real incident which took place on the island six years ago, it shows the five-strong group being forced to strip before being pursued across the Highland wilderness by militants brandishing rifles.

To promote the 500,000 movie, its distributors, Revolver Entertainment, even set up a RAL website, which portrays the organisation as a genuine entity and condemns the imminent release of the "documentary."

A statement on the site reads: "It has come to our attention that attempts are under way to undermine the credibility of RAL, under the auspices of the hunting lobby and their Tory supporters.

"Information has come to light about a so-called 'documentary' into the events of 2005, aimed at blackening RAL in the eyes of the British people and portraying a twisted version of events.

"The bare facts are that RAL planned and executed a specific operation whereby trained members went undercover to track down a particular group of rabid pro-hunt 'murderers' at a particular location in Scotland while they were engaged in deliberately defying the hunting ban and making a mockery of the legislation."

Word quickly spread about the RAL and the statement was reproduced on the website of the Animal Liberation Front, a direct-action group whose members have been convicted for a campaign of terror against companies linked to Huntingdon Life Sciences.

When, however, it emerged the website was part of a promotional push for the film, the backlash was furious. Blooded director Ed Boase told Scotland on Sunday that staff at Revolver Entertainment have been subject to threats, with police called to the film's premiere in Yorkshire last week for fear of reprisal attacks.

"The Real Animal League has caused an absolutely huge amount of controversy," Boase said."When the Animal Liberation Front found it was marketing for a film it got very upset. Ever since, there have been a lot of very vitriolic comments about the film online.

"It's been tough, and there have been threats against the distributors, with people saying staff would be followed home. It's quite scary. At the Bradford International Film Festival, people were phoning up threatening to sue."

The anger towards the marketing tactic is evident online. YouTube has removed the RAL videos after deeming them inappropriate, while on one animal rights forum users have made threats against Revolver. Louise Robertson, spokeswoman for the League Against Cruel Sports in Scotland, said the film was not "doing the animal welfare movement any favours".

She said: "It's an important issue and a lot of organisations like ourselves are very concerned at hunting practices. We want to work professionally with people in power that can make a difference. But being hysterical about it and producing a film that is dodgy in terms of whether it's based on fact is not the most sensible way of doing that.

"The fact the Real Animal League has the word 'league' in its title worries me because there could be confusion."

She added: "People who are looking to promote the film have to take a hard look at themselves and ask what they're trying to achieve."

Boase, however, said he hoped his debut feature would spark debate about hunting and extremist behaviour. "The film's about the politics of extremism, it's not so much about hunting," he said. "It's intended to stimulate debate and discussion about the issue."

Blooded, which was filmed on Mull over 16 days, will receive a limited cinema release this Friday.

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