There’s a question I often ask those Scottish artists I’m lucky enough to talk to in the course of my job: is ours a visual nation, by which I mean do we express ourselves most naturally through the visual arts? It’s a consequence of a long ago conversation with a film-maker who posed the question to me and argued that the answer was no.

There’s meat on the theory, if you think about it. We’re good at talking and arguing – or flyting, which is our version of the African-American ‘dozens’ that form the basis of rap battles. As a result of those vocal and linguistic skills we tend to produce great writers, dramatists and (because it’s all connected) actors. If music is a sort of expressive language then that fits into the argument too, because music, singing and the playing of instruments is deeply rooted in our culture.

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Here’s the thing, though: as anyone with a social media account will tell you – that’s 4.8 billion hands in the air right now, or 60% of the world’s population – we live in an era where the image is all. Ours is a visual world, regardless of nationality. And as the film critic Mark Cousins says: “Cinema remains one of the world’s most vivid cultural forms but has always been under-taught. ”

The Herald: Mark CousinsMark Cousins (Image: Stewart Attwood)

Cousins was welcoming this week’s news of a development scheme in selected Scottish schools which aims to teach pupils about film, and add it and the wider subject of screen education to the expressive arts subjects already contained in Scotland’s Curriculum For Excellence. In other words it will be recognised alongside, and have equal weight with, art and design, music and drama.

If your high school age kids are like mine, they probably see a lot of films at school already as part of their studies (The Dark Knight, perhaps, or The Shawshank Redemption. Maybe even Hot Fuzz). And when they’re not doing that they’re scrolling endlessly and obsessively through YouTube or TikTok or Instagram reels. Or sifting memes and comments for meaning and sub-text. What this bold (though long overdue) initiative does is join the dots between those things – and hope these dots form into a generation of screen enthusiasts with a solid grounding in visual story-telling techniques and content creation. Because until AI pinches its crown, we all know that content is monarch (let’s keep it non-gendered) and that it’s humans currently doing the bulk of the creating. Hopefully in the future there will be more young Scots succeeding in that endeavour.

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Other news this week offers hope for what those now highly screen-literate young Scots will see when they look around them in a decade or so. Hope for Scotland’s standing as a centre for film. For its being able to deliver jobs in a thriving local film industry. For its ability to nurture and sustain a diverse exhibition landscape which can mount a Sally Potter retrospective, say, or show a season of Edward Yang films without having to wait for a touring BFI programme – and do it in city centre cinemas.

The positivity began with the announcement that the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), which came close to going out of existence in 2022, has finally appointed a director after a recruitment campaign overseen by its newly-appointed chair, Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald. The appointee is Paul Ridd, currently head of acquisitions at Picturehouse Entertainment. Fund-raising and the production of a multi-year plan are key tasks, for which read: ‘Let’s not sink the ship a second time’.

The other casualty of the collapse of EIFF’s parent organisation, the Centre for the Moving Image, was Edinburgh’s august and much-loved Filmhouse cinema. At a livestreamed public meeting this week, interested parties were updated on the ongoing campaign to return it to use. In short, a re-opening previously thought impossible is now distinctly possible thanks to a positive crowdfunding campaign, direct donations from individuals and a funding pledge from Screen Scotland. It’s a when now, not an if.

The Herald: Jason Connery with his late father SeanJason Connery with his late father Sean (Image: Getty)

Finally, the son of a celebrated Scot who knew all about acting has announced a new initiative in his father’s name. The Sean Connery Talent Lab will be a permanent film and TV school to be based at First Stage Studios in Edinburgh’s Leith, the venture in which Jason Connery is a co-partner with producer Bob Last.

False dawn? Maybe. But as we head into the depths of winter, there’s a definite hint of spring about Scotland’s often beleaguered film sector.