Andrew Eaton-Lewis: A story about working class Scotland, with all that awkward crime stuff

Laura McMonagle and Martin Compston star in The Wee Man. Picture:  Sophie Mutevelian
Laura McMonagle and Martin Compston star in The Wee Man. Picture: Sophie Mutevelian
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ACCORDING to John Hannah in the Sun last week, Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police were “very immature and very stupid” for preventing the makers of gangster movie The Wee Man from filming in Glasgow.

Director Ray Burdis was even more damning in an interview with the Scotsman, comparing the rejection to “something out of Nazi Germany”.

If Burdis’s comment is a little extreme, the whole thing still stinks of censorship and cowardice. It’s understandable that Glasgow councillors don’t enjoy being reminded of the city’s association with gang violence – as opposed to, for example, its association with Celtic Connections, the Riverside Museum and the Turner Prize. But in obstructing Burdis and his Scottish cast they have made themselves look like paranoid control freaks – and shameless hypocrites too, given how helpful they were to director Marc Forster when he was making World War Z. So, a potentially sympathetic portrayal of a Glasgow gangster is not on, but turning the city into the scene of a zombie apocalypse is fine?

That’s a cheap shot, I admit – nobody is going to be put off visiting Glasgow out of fear that they might run into a zombie (which is actually ironic given the state of some Glaswegians on a Saturday night) – but the point still stands.

There are echoes here of the way VisitScotland bent over backwards to support Brave – an American film, sorry, despite its Scottish cast – but did nothing to promote The Angels’ Share. Again, you can see the logic – Brave, like World War Z, is a fantasy, so contains nothing that will upset tourists. The Angels’ Share, like The Wee Man, is a story about working class Scotland, complete with all that awkward crime, drugs and poverty stuff, so less in tune with the holiday destination image our leaders want to promote. And again, to support one but not the other looks like cowardice and censorship.

As Hannah says, The Wee Man is “a piece of entertainment… we’re not making a documentary”. And as it happens, the Glasgow establishment was probably making a fuss over nothing. Reviews of The Wee Man have been withering (See Page 13). The consensus seems to be that this is just another clichéd gangster movie, certainly not the new Trainspotting. It’s unlikely to linger in the memory long enough to cause Glasgow many PR problems.

What it is, though, is a piece of populist movie-making about Scottish working class life. Why should this be so problematic for some people in positions of power? Is it terror of the great unwashed? Is it the cultural cringe at work once again? «

Twitter: @Aeatonlewis

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