Previously unseen work by influential Scottish director Bill Douglas revealed at Venice Film Festival
Previously unseen work made by one of Scotland's most influential filmmakers more than half a century ago is to be screened at one of the world's biggest film festivals this week.
Footage from home movies made by director Bill Douglas before he attended the London Film School will be premiered in Venice.
Douglas, who was born in the mining town of Newcraighall, in south Edinburgh, made a series of short films between 1966 and 1969 after being gifted a camera by his long-time friend Peter Jewell. Jack Archer, the director of the documentary, Bill Douglas: My Best Friend, has compared watching the unseen 8mm short films to "flicking through Leonardo da Vinci's notebook".
Douglas and Jewell, who lived together, collected thousands of objects of film-related material and memorabilia over more than 30 years.
After Douglas died in 1991, Jewell donated the collection to Exeter University, which went on to open a cinema museum named after Douglas. Its curator, Dr Phil Whickham, is among those interviewed for the documentary.
Douglas, who met Jewell while the pair were on National Service in Egypt, is best remembered for his acclaimed trilogy on his upbringing in Scotland. The first instalment, My Childhood, was honoured at the Venice Film Festival, in 1972.
It has described the new documentary as the story of the “extraordinary friendship” between Douglas and Jewell.
The festival programme states: “The two men had very different backgrounds, but they formed a unique bond that channelled a tremendous creative energy. In this film. Peter reminisces about the life he shared with Bill in their tiny Soho flat filled with cinema memorabilia.
"Their shared love of the movies led them to start experimenting with an 8mm camera. Peter’s memories and musings about the legacy Bill left behind are illustrated with these never-before-seen short films.”
Archer said: “Bill Douglas is a ‘filmmakers’ filmmaker’, an inspiration for many contemporary voices in world cinema, but criminally overlooked by commercial audiences. The discovery of a treasure trove of his unseen films was incredibly exciting. Watching them was like flicking through Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.
"They demonstrated not only his developing style and director’s eye, but also how important his friend Peter Jewell was on his life and his career. Meeting Peter it became clear that his telling of the story of their life together should be the centre of the film.
“Bill remains a huge part of his life even 30 years after his death. As Peter himself says ‘art is the only immortality'.”
Jewell said: “Bill was my very best friend and our friendship created the collection that became the museum. The collection was as much a part of his art as his filmmaking and we wanted to share it with everyone else. I’m exhilarated to see our lives on screen in this documentary.
“It is appropriate the documentary will be shown at the festival, as Bill won the Silver Lion there 51 years ago with My Childhood, the first part of a trilogy based on his deprived upbringing.”
Dr Wickham said: “The documentary gives a brilliant insight into the importance of Peter’s friendship to Bill’s career. The 8mm films are fascinating. They show how Bill was playing around with ideas and finding his poetic style, developing his technique and talent.”
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