In June 2015, I visited the Scottish island of Rum, one of the Small Isles of the Inner Hebrides. Being only a few miles across, and with inhospitable terrain, Rum is barely inhabited. Around forty people live in the only settlement, the village of Kinloch. The south of the island is dominated by the Rum Cuillin, like its near neighbour the Skye Cuillin, the mountainous remains of a volcanic caldera. The north is flatter and, historically, has been inhabited more frequently: the remains of crofts can be seen at Harris (in the west) and Kilmory (in the north).
I was interested in making films about the island which captured something specific: the way in which we are related to landscape. I wanted to try to show how those people who live on Rum are necessarily embodied within the landscape and intertwined with the wild and remote environment but also capture the extent to which filmmaking is itself an embodied activity.
The first result of the visit was A Summer Voyage. (Another result was the Disruptions series, which you can see and read about elsewhere on my blog.)
The film’s name comes from an eighteenth century text, Martin Martin’s A Description of the Western Isles of Scotland Circa 1695. Martin travelled around the islands of Scotland collecting data for his Description just over thirty years after the founding of the Royal Society, on whose behalf he travelled and for whom he brought back information about these wild, remote places.
Whilst The Description attempts to be an application of scientific method it simultaneously recites the fantastic stories of the residents of the islands. Like Martin’s book, the film is episodic and varies in tone and style from chapter to chapter.
During my visit, I recorded interviews with several of the inhabitants of Rum. I am indebted to them for their generosity and willingness to spend time openly discussing their feelings about their home.