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Final preparations are underway for the fifth Hebrides International Film Festival – taking place throughout the Outer Hebrides from Wednesday, 19 September to Saturday, 22 September.

The festival, which is supported by Creative Scotland, HIE and other agencies and presented in collaboration with An Lanntair, has developed into a high-quality event, which brings the latest in world cinema to the islands.

Only films made within the last three years are eligible to be included in the programme, which is curated by Muriel Ann Macleod, director of the Rural Nations Community Interest Company, with the support of Paul Taylor, the cinema programmer at Eden Court Theatre.

All the films being shown fit within the festival’s broad theme of “islands, environmental issues and indigenous peoples” and this year there is a particular focus on the “ocean” theme.

Although there are variety of genres in the programme – including art, comedy, children’s film, drama and surf film – there is always a strong element of documentary or political and environmental commentary, and two of the biggest films this year document what is going on within our oceans and rivers. In particular, the global environmental crisis of plastic pollution.

One of the headline documentaries, Blue, has been described by Greenpeace as a “cinematic song for our oceans; beautiful, intimate and grand” and was filmed in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Pacific and United States.

Similarly, A Plastic Ocean was shot over four years at 20 locations across the planet and documents how wildlife – and people – are living among the toxic refuse. 

As well as having been made within the last three years, all the films on the programme are chosen for their high quality and many are award winners.

There are approximately 26 feature films on the programme and there will be a total of 56 screenings across the venues over the four days, with each screening including a feature film and an accompanying short. There are around 13 ‘shorts’ on the programme including Cianalas by young Hebridean Zoe Paterson Macinnes, which is currently being well received. 

The films are a mix of English language features and foreign films with full English subtitles.

The full programme is available online now – at www.hebfilmfestival.org – and tickets can also be bought through the website by following the links to the Eventbrite marketplace.

For festival films that are being shown at An Lanntair, tickets are available via their website (not Evenbrite) – at lanntair.com – and they also have a series of free films on in their Pocket Cinema. 

In general, tickets can also be bought at venue doors, although it is advisable to book in advance for the smaller venues, where space is more limited. Tickets are priced £7 adults, £5 concession and £4 for under-16s, with a season ticket for £50 which allows entry to everything.

There will also be special daytime screenings for school groups and a number of masterclasses from film makers, as well as environmental lectures and a beach clean. Full details of the masterclasses and lecturers are also available on the website.

The Hebridean International Film Festival grew out of a programme started by Regional Screen Scotland five years ago, where a number of remote and rural film festivals were given three-year funding and mentorship. It was also a natural successor to the Hebrides Coastal Film Festival.

For programmer and director Muriel Ann, her original involvement came out of wanting to make a shift from theatre into filmmaking. 

“For me, it’s been an education in what cinematic film is and what a good quality film is. You know that these films can make change. We’ve seen it. It’s gobsmacking when you screen these films and people coming out, saying, ‘What?! – I never knew any of that!’

“So what a fantastic thing to get to do. People need to know what’s happening in the world and these current films show you. That’s the bottom line.”