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Glasgow Film Festival Review – Iorram (Boat Song)

Alastair Cole breaks boundaries with Iorram being the first full feature length documentary in Scottish Gaelic.

4 mins read

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Iorram (Boat Song) is a feature documentary looking at the lives of the fishing communities, new and old, of the Outer Hebrides. It focuses on many different aspects of the fishing communities from fishermen, to their families and stories of old. 

The documentary was also a momentous occasion marking the first ever documentary completely in Scottish Gaelic. Considering the language dismissing alongside the culture with it having a full length feature fully in Scottish Gaelic is a large step towards a larger acceptance of the language. Using traditional folk songs continued this throughout, emphasising the beauty of the language through lyrical music.

Opening with underwater shots of jellyfish moving to boats on the water, most importantly not a single person was seen for the first five minutes of the film setting the tone for the rest of the documentary about the importance of the sea and fishing within the community.

The way the rest of the film was laid out showed how the communities were committed to the sea and respected it and the relationship between the two. It included a fusion of music, song, interviews and oral history recordings, showcasing the stories of the young and old while the beautiful landscapes of Islands and the sea played across the screen. 

The most beautiful part of the documentary was the feeling you weren’t meant to be viewing it. You merely feel as if you are listening in. The audio over the documentary which guides the story along is so natural between friends and colleagues. With the naturalistic filming on the boats, in the factories and on the dockside there were moments where I felt like I was intruding. You were watching them working, doing what they did best.

The pacing of the film was switched up from skippers talking about the minute detailing and difficulties of fishing to historic entries about tragedies and boat accidents. The beautiful traditional songs in the background were filled with emotion, creating a poetic picture of the lifestyle, a small insight. 

Packed full of the history of the communities and stories, I struggled to concentrate and retain everything from the documentary. It was difficult at times to keep up with subtitles because at the same time you were trying to focus on the stunning imagery on the screen and then also concentrating on the lyrical music in the background. It all fused together and never felt clumsy or busy, just hard to concentrate on everything at once. 

It just depends what you are wanting to get out of the film and how many times you’re watching it. I am also aware as an English person, this documentary wasn’t made for the purpose of me understanding everything, it had much deeper intentions and deeper meaning to marginalised Scottish communities. All it means is I need to watch it again to fully grasp everything said in the documentary. 

What did stick with me were the elements of Celtic mythology throughout. Stories of mermaids, disappearing islands and old fishermen superstitions. Paired with haunting music and crashing waves the words stuck with you as you were pulled into the world fantasy and intrigue.

This documentary has everything you want. It’s aesthetically beautiful, highly educational with the most amazing stories as well. Even if fishing isn’t really your cup of tea it is definitely one to watch, to learn from and to enjoy. 

Featured image – Tongue tied films

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