Reflections of Island Life at Hebrides International Film Festival 2016.

  • Published on: 8th September 2016
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Festival Co-ordinator Aidan Nicol gives an insight into this year’s festival.

The Hebrides International Film Festival is back with its theme of islands and environment this September. Offering a wide range of contemporary film from all over the world in the form of documentaries, dramas and short films that come from, are about or feature issues relating to island life.

Islands are some of the most affected and impacted on communities in terms of environmental issues like climate change and pollution.

Relatively speaking they make a small contribution to the problem, but do and will suffer the most.

Presenting the latest in ideas and realities of our world’s environmental situation, particularly in relation to islanders, is a key aim of HIFF- and we hope that as well as being enjoyable our selection of films will make you ponder, sit up and engage.

Island life takes many forms, as the breadth of material in our programme illustrates, but the connectivity between island communities is shared and strong.

Surrounded by the sea, it’s hard to get away from a shared perspective of dependence, love or even fear of the ocean’s power.

In short Caste a Wave a community in India, traditionally terrified of the sea, learn to surf on dry land, before taking their new found confidence and appreciation to the water and cleaning up their beaches as they go. Whilst in Ocean Minded we join free diver Hani Prinsloo who spends more time in the water than out, as she campaigns for cleaner oceans and swims with sharks around South Africa .

The quality and variety of short films we’ll be featuring this year really brings something to the festival, screening before our main features these short films include stories from closer to home -Away with the Land set in the West Coast of Scotland, Eich Bhana an animation set in the Hebrides and local film maker Andy Mackinnon’s Machair Life all illustrate the beauty and challenges to be found in our own island setting.

Livelihoods based around the sea, fishing and agriculture feature heavily in this years programme with quirky and charming Icelandic drama Rams a real audience pleaser, and Lamb the first Ethiopian film to feature at Cannes making up two stand out, heart felt films for any one with a soft spot for sheep.


HIFF is also looking forward to hosting film maker Loic Jordain who took a mammoth 8 years to create his documentary A Turning Tide in the Life of Man about an Irish fisherman from a tiny island challenging the fishing reforms that took everything away from him.

He’ll join us for a fisheries discussion with the Western Isles Fisherman’s Association after the screening, and host a masterclass on long form film making for those of you looking to get stuck in for the long haul with your film idea.

We’re excited to have the UK premiere of award winning Caribbean documentary Vanishing Sail opening the festival. Exploring a boat building community’s way of life and what could soon be a skill lost, passed down from Scottish ancestors in the 19th century.

Traditional ways of life on our own islands will also be on display with archive material screening from the National Library of Scotland in hard hitting Scottish documentary The Islands and the Whales about traditional whaling will no doubt raise some heated debate on animal welfare and traditional island practices.

Turning Tide_Poster A1 150707 print.indd

Writer/Director Charles Wilkinson, will be joining us from British Columbia, for a masterclass on green film making for a wide audience based around his film about an island community destroyed by ‘progress’, Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World.

Of course as well as giving you something to think about we’ve got a great selection of films that entertain as well as educate, Norwegian disaster movie The Wave will have you clinging to your seat, and suspiciously watching the horizon on your way home for rogue waves.

Nostalgia stirs as an updated family favourite comes to the screen, Swallows & Amazons is on my to see list, as is French animated feature Long Way North, a beautifully drawn tale of adventure and perseverance.


With just a week to go until the festival, I’m confident that wherever you are in the Outer Hebrides we’ll have a local event with films on show that speak directly to your community, as well as opening up a window onto wider environmental issues around the world.

And as the season turns here in the Stornoway we hope we’ve given you reason enough to get out of the house and into the cinema (or local hall) this September for the Hebrides International Film Festival.
Images Used: Vanishing Sail, Lamb, A Turning Tide in the Life of Man, Long Way North