|Click here to see a clip of Em's fantastic oil paint animation|
Fishing for film gold
The Edinburgh international film festival starts this week, casting its net wide with Korean films and American indies. But this 67th edition might be remembered for a very local tale and one of the unlikeliest documentaries that's ever hooked me. It's called Kiss the Water: A Love Story, a portrait of an eccentric, almost hermit-like woman called Megan Boyd who became the world's foremost maker of salmon flies. Seriously. Prince Charles was one of her loyal clients, even delivering her OBE to her cottage because Boyd couldn't be bothered with the fuss of going to the palace to accept it from the Queen.
The film is by American doc maker Eric Steel, whose last film, The Bridge, was about suicides off the Golden Gate bridge. This is a calmer, less controversial affair, though equally contemplative, it seems to me, still questioning why people make certain life choices. Boyd's devotion to creating little bits of bait from silk, thread and feathers of toucans, parrots and ibis is indeed baffling, and Steel probes her life with testimonies from those who knew her, and using striking impressionistic animations by British illustrator Em Cooper. The natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands and a vanishing way of life also plays a major part. Steel first heard of Boyd when he read her obituary in the New York Times in 2001. When I call him at his isolated beach house off Montauk, he tells me he's just finished reading that day's obits and is staring at the sea. "People die everyday," he says. "I read them for inspiration but for some reason Megan's was one I clipped out and stuck in on the wall and stared at it for many years, every day. I don't know why. I don't eat salmon, I'd never fished, never been to Scotland. I guess it was the mystery that reeled me in." Kissing the Water premieres at EIFF next Sunday, in the presence of several of the ghillies who appear in the film. "They read the river," Steel says, "and it's like reading the mysteries of life. They're the keepers of some kind of magic, so it will be an honour to be in Edinburgh with them."