Jonathan Melville: SDI helps keep the Scots doc on screen

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WHILE we all wait patiently for the next great (we’ll even settle for half-decent) Scottish fiction film to come along, there’s a genre waiting, impatiently, for our attention - documentary.

Though the history of the British documentary is a long and distinguished one, (the word documentary was coined by filmmaker John Grierson, a pioneer of the early Edinburgh International Film Festivals, which aimed to bring them to the wider public), it’s not always easy to see one at the local cinema.

If you were lucky enough to catch one at the EIFF this year, you’ll know that Scotland is punching above its weight when it comes to documentaries.

“Documentary is a very exciting area just now,” says Noe Mendelle, director of the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI).

“It keeps going away and coming back in new forms. The blur between documentary and fiction is challenging notions of what cinematic language is about. For any filmmaker it’s about storytelling.”

Having helped local filmmakers, such as the award- winning Johanna Wagner and Martin Smith, ensure their short documentaries are seen at festivals internationally, an increase in funding means the SDI is now looking to develop more feature films and longer shorts as part of the Bridging the Gap scheme.

It’s heartening to know that, while we wait for the next generation of screenwriters to find inspiration for their next script, documentary filmmakers are out there shooting in the real world and making a name for themselves, and Scotland, in the process.

Next week I’ll be looking at how you can see documentaries on the big screen in Edinburgh.

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