The world premiere of the mass participation, feature length documentary We Are Northern Lights is to be screened at Glasgow Film Festival on Saturday 16 February, introduced by Scottish Government Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, before embarking on a tour of regional cinemas in March.

Northern Lights Diver

Led by Creative Director, Dr Nick Higgins, We Are Northern Lights asked the people of Scotland to capture their unique perspectives on film and submit them for selection. To ensure that the project was accessible to all, 55 workshops took place up and down the country, with entertaining, ‘how-to’ online video tutorials provided by Still Game’s Sanjeev Kohli. The resulting film is a unique documentary portrait of Scotland in 2012.

Over 1500 submissions were received and the resulting 300 hours of footage took five months to edit into a 95-minute feature, with Nick working alongside the highly experienced film editor Colin Monie (Midnight’s Children, Neds). The final film features footage from 121 ‘co-directors’ from all over the country and from all walks of life. The musical score was mostly created with selections from 200 original music submissions, also crowd-sourced from members of the public.

Northern Lights Glaswegian couple

From midges to multi-storeys, tweed to T in the Park, Skara Brae to wind turbines via the Dalai Lama and Donald Trump, this is Scotland’s story told by the people of Scotland. The challenges of living in Scotland are not ignored but the finished film is notable for its dry wit. Concerned with issues rather than image, this is the combined response of a people that take huge delight in their country.

Nick Higgins (Director)

Filmmaker and academic Dr Nick Higgins (pictured above) originated, produced and directed the year-long project. He says: “We wanted to make the Project as accessible as possible, so we encouraged people to submit footage from their camera phones or even their home computers. And if they didn’t have a camera we would lend them one. We ran workshops with people from communities not normally included in projects of this nature, from Govanhill in Glasgow to the Isle of Luing, and if they couldn’t make it to a workshop we posted all our resources online.

Northern Lights Stone Man Billy Sangster

The screening at Glasgow Film Festival will be accompanied by a Q&A session with Nick and some of the co-directors, to be followed by screenings and Q&As across the country. Nick comments: “It was a hugely gratifying experience to receive so many submissions of such great quality. Whilst individually the videos might not be considered of national importance, collectively they combine to create something truly original and inspiring. It’s an image of a new Scotland that might surprise some people.”

Scottish Government Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said: “We Are Northern Lights presents a fantastic insight into modern day Scotland. It shows what can be achieved when the individual creative impulses of people from across Scotland are brought together.

“To me, it has set a standard for cultural projects – it’s reached out to our diverse communities and inspired them to think about how they can use culture and creativity – not only to promote their local identity but to enhance community engagement. I am sure that everyone involved is very proud.”

We Are Northern Lights: Meet the Filmmakers
A free informal discussion with director Nick Higgins and editor Colin Monie, will take place on Friday 15 February at 17.30 at the Festival Club.

We Are Northern Lights premieres this Saturday 16 February at 3.15pm at Glasgow Film Theatre.

Audience reactions from the premiere at Glasgow Film Festival.

Some of the directors attending the premiere.

The film is now on tour around six cities in Scotland. See here for listings.

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