The world of Scottish film was rocked this year by the announcement of the closure of Edinburgh’s celebrated Filmhouse cinema, its sister venue in Aberdeen, The Belmont, and the apparent demise of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, one of the world’s oldest. Despite that it was a bumper year, with Scottish actors, directors and documentary-makers all contributing the country’s rich filmic landscape. Here is our selection of some of the best of 2022 …

Aftersun (pictured above)

Voted film of the year by cinema bible Sight And Sound, Edinburgh-born director Charlotte Wells hit the bullseye with her semi-autobiographical debut feature. Frankie Corio is a revelation as 12-year-old Sophie, a Scottish schoolgirl on holiday in a Turkish beach resort with her troubled dad Calum (Normal People’s Paul Mescal). Occasionally we flash forward to modern day New York, where the adult Sophie is waking up in her apartment and reflecting on what we assume may have been her last proper holiday with her father. Mostly we follow her 11-year-old self as she and Calum hang out. Slow-paced, beautifully shot and exactly the right flavour of bittersweet, it marks out Wells as one of the brightest young directors working today.

READ MORE: CHARLOTTE WELLS, SCOTTISH FILM'S RISING STAR

The Story Of Film: A New Generation

In 2004, film critic, filmmaker and former Edinburgh International Film Festival director Mark Cousins published The Story Of Film, a century spanning history of the form. In 2011 he turned it into a 15-part TV series, and in 2021 he updated that to gather together some of the most important and iconic films of the 21st century. After a short theatrical release, it came to Netflix in May where it remains crucial viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in modern cinema. Among the new classics Cousins dissects in his typically erudite fashion are Parasite and – wait for it – Frozen.

Ride The Wave

Raised on Tiree, something of a surfer’s paradise, 17-year-old Ben Larg has been riding the waves since he was two. Aged 12 he was the world under-18 champion and in this gripping documentary, shot over three years, director Martyn Robertson follows Ben as he enters surfing competitions, hangs out with his family, encounters the weird and wonderful characters who inhabit the world of surfing and, in one pivotal section, tackles a forbiddingly huge swell off the coast of a very wintry looking Ireland. A hit at the London Film Festival, where it premiered in 2021, and at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, the film was released to wide acclaim in September.

My Old School

A man pretending to be a teenage boy to return to school? It’s the kind of thing a Hollywood screenwriter would dream up. But in Glasgow in 1994 it really happened when Brandon MacKinnon, a former pupil of Bearsden Academy, adopted the name Brandon Lee and returned to his alma mater. How it came about – and, importantly, why – is the subject of this fascinating film by director Jono McLeod, who was a pupil at the school at the time. In a taped interview, MacKinnon attempts to answer both of those questions. To bring it to life on the screen McLeod has Alan Cumming (pictured below) lip-synch to it, a task he executes to perfection. Interspersed are animated sequences (Clare Grogan and Lulu both add their voices) and talking head interviews with former pupils. Fascinating stuff.

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READ MORE: THE STRANGE CASE OF BRANDON LEE 

The Hermit Of Treig

For this fascinating documentary about solitude and, ultimately, friendship, Oban-based restaurateur-turned-filmmaker Lizzie MacKenzie turns her camera on Ken Smith, the hermit of the title, who has lived off-grid lived for years in a log cabin in Lochaber. The filming period was lengthy and took in the period of Covid lockdowns – not that they affected Smith much – so it was only this year that MacKenzie’s film finally saw the light of day in its finished form, winning the Audience Award at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival in March.

Winners

A film shot in Iran and taking as its subject Iranian films and Iranian film-makers – think Cinema Paradiso but in Farsi – may not seem like a typically Scottish work, but Iranian director Hassan Nazer has lived here since 2000 and Winners ran in the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s Scotland’s Stories On Screen strand when it enjoyed its world premiere there in August. The plot turns on a nine-year-old boy who finds an Oscar statuette hidden in a pile of junk and rubbish in his rural village. So he sets out to find its original owner. Already acclaimed after its Edinburgh screening, October brought the news that Winners has been picked as the UK’s entry for the Best International Feature Oscar at next year's Academy Awards. Maybe truth is stranger than fiction.

A Banquet

Scotland’s answer to the new wave of female directors turning out arthouse-style horror films may well be Ruth Paxton. The Edinburgh-based filmmaker and Edinburgh College of Art graduate followed a series of well-received short films with this creepy debut feature about a mother (Sienna Guillory) dealing with the suicide of her husband and what might be a case of demonic possession – daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander, pictured below) has stopped eating after a violent reaction to food but doesn’t seem to lose any weight. The fact that it happened after a weird encounter in the woods following a party is particularly troubling part. For the record, Paxton describes the film as a cross between David Cronenberg and TV food series Chef’s Table.

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