A DOCUMENTARY reliving the full horror of full horror of the Piper Alpha disaster has won the prestigious “audience award” at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Fire In The Night follows the likes of The Full Monty, Buena Vista Social Club, Man on Wire, Billy Elliot and Amelie by winning one of the longest-running honours at the event, which was revived this year after a two-year hiatus.
Other main winners included Leviathan, another documentary, set aboard a North Atlantic fishing traweler, which won director Lucien Castaing-Taylor the prestigous Michael Powell Award for best British film.
Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo shared the main acting award for “uwantme2killhim?”, a chilling new British drama about the dangers of internet relationships - based on a true story a teenager in Greater Manchester who stabbed his best friend.
Fire In The Night - described as “riveting” by festival director Chris Fujiwara - had its world premiere at the festival ahead of a BBC television screening next month, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the tragedy.
Directed by Anthony Wonke, it was adapted by STV productions for the BBC from the book of the same name by The Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty, who was also one of the film’s producers.
In the film, workers and rescuers speak of the battle to survive a series of huge explosions, which eventually toppled the rig, while a number of new dramatic reconstructions, including underwater sequences, have been filmed for the documentary.
Behind-the-scenes footage of the workers on the rig before the disaster unfolded is combined with live audio material of the chaotic rescue operation, archive material captured on the night of the tragedy and footage of the aftermath as the scale of the loss of life became clear.
Survivors, some speaking publicly about Piper Alpha for the first time, relive the life-or-death decisions taken amid the escalating inferno and their desperate attempts to escape the rig, and also speak about the ongoing impact the disaster still has on their lives.
Executive producer Michael McAvoy, who collected the award at the ceremony at the Filmhouse, said: “It really means something for the film to get this award, because it’s been voted for by film lovers.
“This is really for those brave guys who opened up their souls to look back on the darkest night of their lives and the terrible events of 25 years ago.
“They are the guys that help put fuel in our cars and help us go about our day-to-day business, and they should be remembered. It really would mean a lot to them that their story touched so many people.”
Andrew Douglas, the director of Uwantme2killhim?, started researching the 2003 court case that inspired the film after reading a Vanity Fair article about the two teenagers, who were ordered to spend the rest of their lives apart after friendship ended in violence.
Toby Regbo, who plays lonely and bullied schoolboy John in Uwantme2killhim?, said: “Our story is actually a distilled version of the truth because the actual events that occured were so implausible.
“Without the note at the beginning of the film saying it is based on a true story it is almost too ridiculous to believe. But the real events were even more crazy.
Jamie Blackley, who has the other key role as John’s friend Mark, added: It’s an unbelievable feeling. We were both knocked off our feet when we heard we’d won. We were just happy to be at the festival.”
Lucien Castaing-Taylor said he was “speechless” to win best British film for Leviathan, his debut at the film festival, despite repeated submissions over the years.
He added: “We are totally bowled over by the news of this award. All our films have been rejected by every British film festival to date, so it is all the more moving for us.”
This year’s festival will close on Sunday with the new Glasgow-set romantic comedy Not Another Happy Ending, with former Dr Who star Karen Gillan expected on the red carpet.
AWARDS IN FULL
Best International Film: A World Not Ours.
Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature: Leviathan.
Best Performance in a British Feature Film: Jamie Blackley and Toby Regbo for Uwantme2killhim?
Audience Award: Fire in the Night.
Best Short Film: GHL.
McLaren Award for Best New British Animation: Marilyn Myller.
Student Critics Jury Award: Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari.
Award for Creative Innovation in a Short Film: Doll Parts.
Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to a Short Film: Josh Gibson for Light Plate.