Sexually abused as a child, David Tait went on a destructive downward spiral. A film exploring his personal tragedy will receive its world premiere in Glasgow, reports Sandra Dick

Standing on the top of the world with Everest under his feet and a dark, disturbing secret embedded in his heart, David Tait felt a kind of euphoria wash over him.

Getting there had taken years of chaos and destructive behaviour. Friends, family and lovers had been trampled over, his hedonistic City trader’s lifestyle and disregard for others had left a trail of misery in its wake.

Conquering the world’s highest peak brought a natural high that Tait, first raped aged 10 by a relative then appallingly abused throughout his childhood, had never experienced before.

“Something extraordinary happened,” he recalls. “It was euphoric, I never felt better. I realised I had found something.”

On the 29,000ft summit, years of suppressing the horrors of his childhood lifted.

Tait, a successful City trader and top banker with Credit Suisse who had already quietly resolved to turn those awful childhood experiences into a force for good, vowed to take the next step and share his distressing yet powerful story.

Now a harrowing but uplifting film that depicts how he overcame a childhood blighted by sexual predators and which scarred his journey into adulthood will receive its world premiere at Glasgow Film Festival.

Sulphur And White, which stars Anna Friel as Tait’s broken mother and Fife-born actor Dougray Scott as his cruel father, throws light on the deeply distressing impact of child sex abuse and the ripple effect that shatters the lives of not only its young victims but those around them too.

Using flashback sequences, it links years of abuse and suppressed hurt with Tait’s subsequent destructive and self-indulgent behaviour which triggered the breakdown of his first marriage and two suicide attempts.

Although it is deeply disturbing, Tait says he is hopeful the film will encourage debate over the far-reaching impacts of child abuse, and help lift the stigma that may discourage victims from seeking support and avoid a descent into a troubled adulthood.

“I’d like the film to be a defining moment in recognising that the victim also creates many,” he says, adding: “There are animals out there and all we can do is try to protect children.”

His ordeal began when he was just 10 years old while working for a relative in a tearoom in Deptford Park, south London. Caught pinching a chocolate bar, Tait’s punishment was to be brutally raped and warned not to tell.

The assaults continued for an entire summer and included episodes involving groups of men, with the youngster’s head covered with a sack to protect the identities of his attackers. Later, Tait was subjected to abuse from his own father.

The film explores how that abuse affected his adult relationships and how, having been driven to the brink, he pulled back from taking his own life and resolved to stop allowing events of the past to dictate his behaviour.

He went on to climb Everest five times and raise £1.5 million for children’s charity NSPCC, which supports young victims of abuse.

Of the film, he says: “I realised there was a chance to do three things. The first was to educate those who don’t understand what sexual abuse of children is. I know some remarkably clever people who, when they saw the film, turned to me and said they didn’t understand that went on. I thought everyone did.

“Secondly, there’s a lot of collateral damage created by the victim – me. Over the years I have created so much mayhem. I want to destigmatise it, talk about [abuse] and bring it out into the open.

“Thirdly, there was no NSPCC for me. And I hope the film will show that children don’t have to go through 30 or 40 years of misery before getting help.”

Tait, 58, first decided to speak openly of his childhood experiences as he prepared for his second Everest climb, signing off an email calling for support towards his fundraising for the NSPCC with the line: “Because I was one of those kids.”

His last Everest expedition in 2013 almost ended in tragedy when he was caught in an avalanche.

Sulphur And White is among nine world premieres at the 12-day film festival. Others include Flint, from Scotland-based director Anthony Baxter, which unravels scandalous betrayal and hypocrisy around Michigan’s water supply, and Pictures From Afghanistan which follows The Herald and The Herald on Sunday photojournalist David Pratt as he returns to the country.

More than 100 films will make their UK debut, among them Edinburgh-based Mark Cousins’ 14-hour documentary Women Make Film, a tribute to women filmmakers which will be screened in five instalments, and Dirt Music starring Kelly Macdonald as an Australian outback wife trapped in a miserable marriage.

The festival closes on International Women’s Day with every film screened that day either directed or written by a woman, or featuring a female lead.

Mark Stanley, who played Grenn in the HBO series Game Of Thrones, and who portrays Tait in the film, and co-star Emily Beecham, who plays his wife, Vanessa, and who last year won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress for her part in Little Joe, are lined up to attend the world premiere of Sulphur And White.

The film tackles the complicated relationship between Tait and his mother, and explores how the support of his wife and birth of his children brought new focus into his life.

“I feel different almost every time I see it,” he says of the film. “There are one or two points regarding my mother that are devastating – two scenes leave me helpless every time I watch them.

“It was probably harder for me to read the script than to watch the film. I realised this sequence of events in my life that seemed very disjointed had been crafted into something that was an interesting story.”

Sulphur And White will receive its world premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on Friday, February 28, at the Glasgow Film Theatre, and be released in cinemas on March 6.