The Glasgow Film Festival will host the UK premiere of a documentary about a renowned Scottish filmmaker, with a special screening of one of his short films at the Glasgow Short Film Festival.

Born into poverty in a Midlothian mining community in 1934, Bill Douglas became one of Scotland’s most celebrated film directors.

In his short career he made four films: an autobiographical trilogy about his difficult childhood—My Childhood, My Ain Folk and My Way Home—and Comrades, a transcontinental, visually stunning epic about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. 

Douglas met his lifelong companion, Peter Jewell, while completing his national service in the Egyptian desert in the 1950s, with the pair later living together for more than 30 years.

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A new documentary, sees Mr Jewell reminisce about the life he shared with the filmmaker, and how a love of cinema led to Douglas attending film school.

Bill Douglas: My Best Friend will receive its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, while a collection of short films which have never been seen before will be screened at the Glasgow Short Film Festival.

Shot over a three year period in the mid-to-late sixties on the streets and rooftops of Soho, the films feature Bill and Peter’s friends and neighbours. It was Mr Jewell who gifted Douglas his first Super 8 camera; he also appears in several of the films, and operated the camera when Bill himself was acting.

The Herald:

Jack Archer, director of Bill Douglas: My Best Friend, said: “Bill Douglas has inspired many contemporary voices in world cinema but remains undiscovered by mainstream audiences.

"The discovery of a treasure trove of his unseen films was incredibly exciting, watching them was like flicking through Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook.

"They demonstrated not only his developing style and directors’ eye but also the impact his friend Peter Jewell had on his life and 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 thirty years after his death.

"He still finds it hard to define their friendship, emphasising that it wasn’t a sexual one; 'we never said I love you or anything like that' and yet it had a physical dimension, 'we held hands, hugged and relied on one another.'

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"Their friendship was Platonic in the true meaning of the term, a spiritual rather than physical relationship formed around an appreciation of culture and an obsession for cinema. As Peter himself says: ‘Art is the only immortality'."

Allison Gardner, CEO of Glasgow Film, said: “Glasgow Film Festival are delighted to host the UK premiere of Jack Archer’s fascinating new exploration of one of Scotland’s most revered 20th century filmmakers. Bill Douglas: My Best Friend is both a moving exploration of the friendship that shaped Bill’s life and a reminder of how his visionary and ambitious storytelling influenced a generation of filmmakers that followed in his footsteps, from Lynne Ramsay to Lenny Abrahamson. As the conversation around how working class people can build and sustain a career in the UK film industry becomes more pressing, Bill's story and legacy is more timely than ever.”

Matt Lloyd, GSFF Director, said: “We secured Peter Jewell’s blessing to name our annual international competition in honour of Bill Douglas back in 2012, with the aim of introducing his work to a new generation of emerging Scottish film talent, as well as raising his profile internationally. So we were thrilled when researcher Andy Kimpton-Nye approached us with the promise of Bill’s as-yet unseen early filmmaking experiments. Although amateur home movies, these films chart the development of a true visionary finding his unique storytelling voice. As such they have a lot to teach and to encourage aspiring filmmakers, not to mention capturing fascinating vistas of Soho in the late 1960s. 

“I’m particularly excited to be working with Alia Ghafar (Salt & Sauce, GSFF Scottish Short Film Award 2018) and sound designer William Aikman on creating a new dialogue track for Small World, and to be welcoming back Gerard Black to compose and perform a live score for the six films. Gerard previously scored three Dziga Vertov newsreels for us in 2022 - his sensitive approach breathed new life into works which could otherwise be challenging for modern viewers. We can’t wait to hear what he does with Bill’s Super 8 shorts.”