THE world’s first folk film festival, the Folk Film Gathering, returns to Edinburgh Filmhouse and the Scottish Storytelling Centre later this month with a programme full of rare Scottish and world cinema. As the festival’s head of programming I’m excited to welcome audiences back to the Gathering for another feast of folk culture, both on and off the screen.

Part of TradFest, Edinburgh’s wider celebration of traditional culture, the Folk Film Gathering is now entering its third year with a programme focusing on Songs And Labour; the many moments in world cinema in which filmmakers have examined the role of music and work in community life. In 2016 we explored the connections between cinema and the Scottish traditional arts in pairing each of our features with one of TradFest’s oral storytellers. This year the Gathering continues to explore such resonances between cinema and folk culture through introductions to our films from live folk musicians. We’ve assembled an exciting and diverse group of singers and musicians to introduce the screenings, each with a particular connection to the film, including a Fife brass band, a Polish women’s singing group from Leith, celebrated folk singers Jess Smith and Malinky’s Steve Byrne, and Radio Two’s newly-crowned Folk Musician of the Year, Rachel Newton.

This year’s Gathering also places a greater focus upon the ways in which our programme reflects current events, and voices solidarity with vulnerable communities around the world. In the wake of Brexit, the American presidential election and the persistence of austerity policies at Westminister, we have prioritised in particular films depicting the experiences of those groups experiencing new degrees of political pressure. Following the global Women’s March, we have a particular focus on female directors and films depicting women’s experience, including two Scottish premieres from Oscar-nominated Finnish director Selma Vilhunen (Laulu) and American-Lithuanian director Aldona Watts (Land of Songs). Elsewhere, our programme explores the experience of communities battling exploitative labour practices (John Sayles’ Matewan and Theatre Workshop Scotland’s The Happy Lands), those experiencing the dislocations of emigration (Tony Gatlif’s wonderful Latcho Drom) and the struggle of inner city black communities (Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, a key influence on recent Oscar-winner Moonlight).

A particular highlight of our programme this year is a screening of Jean Epstein’s cinematic rendition of a Breton folk tale, Chanson D’Ar-Mor, accompanied by a live Gaelic song recital from award-winning Scots musician Rachel Newton. The event will explore the music and legacy of Heloise Russell-Ferguson, an under-appreciated Scottish composer and one of the leading exponents of the clarsach revival. Newton will be recreating a concert Russell-Ferguson gave at the Breton premiere of Chanson D’Ar-Mor to celebrate the strong cultural ties between Scotland and Brittany. After the screening, she will be joined by Edinburgh University’s Stuart Eydmann and School of Scottish Studies’ Mairi McFadyen in discussing Russell-Ferguson’s work and the parallel experiences of women within Scottish traditional music today.

Elsewhere, Tyneside’s Amber Collective return to the Gathering to present their powerful film The Scar, following May, a divorced nurse, trying to piece back together her life in the wake of the 1984 Miner’s Strike. The film will be introduced by a performance from the McTaggart Scott Loanhead Brass Band and followed by an audience with the Amber Collective themselves.

Finally, on the Gathering’s closing night, we’ll be welcoming back celebrated Scottish filmmaker Timothy Neat to present his celebrated documentary The Tree of Liberty about Robert Burns and Jean Redpath, one of a series of films Neat made in collaboration with Hamish Henderson. The film will be introduced with live Burns songs from Scott Murray and followed by an audience with Neat hosted by TradFest’s Donald Smith.

With a packed programme of folk cinema and traditional music from all over the world, the 2017 Folk Film Gathering promises to be quite the occasion. We hope to see you there.

The Folk Film Gathering runs from Saturday 29th April 29 to May 11 at Edinburgh Filmhouse and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.