“This is a great film – for Fife, for the Scottish Film Industry, for all those who are associated with the history and heritage of our Great Scottish mining communities.” – Former Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP “I’m still not sure that everyon …
“This is a great film – for Fife, for the Scottish Film Industry, for all those who are associated with the history and heritage of our Great Scottish mining communities.” – Former Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
“I’m still not sure that everyone appreciates just how significant this film is, a permanent testimony to an important moment in working class history, a moment which deserves to live for ever. It will live forever, available to billions of people, on multiple devices, from cinema screens to mobile phones. It is the working class telling working class history. That is rare and valuable and stands up, head high, alongside any political film I ever helped to make, or any I have seen.” – Tony Garnett, Drama
Producer (Kes, Cathy Come Home)
“It’s a fine film, beautifully shot and very moving. The acting is excellent – amazing given that the
cast are the villagers themselves. But given that most of them are direct relatives of the mining
community from 1926, perhaps this closeness lent an authenticity that professional actors might
have struggled with”. – David Elliot, Director Arts, British Council, China
“It is marvellous cinema and so much more. To be honest, I was somewhat surprised and very impressed by the high quality of the production, international-standard in very aspect. As a story, it does not flinch from the harrowing events and cruel injustices, yet it has humour and inspiration. It made me realise why I’m so proud of the people I come from. The performances were startlingly realistic in a way full-time professionals can’t quite achieve. The Happy Lands couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, witness the lines at the very end about remembering these things because history repeats itself.” – Tom Brown, Political commentator, Daily Record
“We are delighted to have invested in such an engaging project. Through the exploration of their own community history the project will leave a lasting legacy for the community of Fife, encouraging long-lasting links between people, places and ideas”. – Iain Munro, Director of Creative
Development, Creative Scotland,
“I thought the film was fantastic, powerful, very moving.” – Johann Lamont, MSP, Leader of the
Scottish Labour Party
“I really liked the film, beautifully shot, really well directed – but most importantly the acting was
incredible, fantastic.” – Cllr. Deidre Brock, Depute Lord Provost, Edinburgh City Council, SNP.
“I thought it was very emotional. Very revealing, it told you about the human stories the real life
stories and the sacrifices people made – very educational but very emotional”. – Willie Rennie, MSP,
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
“In my non-Barry Norman opinion, superb: the cinematography, contemporaneous feel, the music,
the emotion and atmosphere, and the quality of the acting were of a high order. The themes it speaks to are all still relevant to modern society. A triumph of collective endeavour”. – John Gallacher, Scottish Organiser, UNISON
“Powerful and gentle, tearing at the heart whilst galvanising anger. Because of the vision and
boldness of the makers of this film, the story and the struggle were given to us, gloriously and with
conviction, by the people of the community, the inhabitants and offspring of the same place, the
same community, for this history and its lessons belonged to them, and now to us”. – Geoff Shears, Former CEO Thompson Solicitors
“Extraordinary. Congratulations to everyone involved. For me the echoes for and continuities in the
great strike of 1984/85 were most powerful and poignant. The film illustrates brilliantly both the
power and the deep suffering involved in constructing and maintaining solidarity, the ways in which
engagement in struggle heightens people’s understanding and commitment, the critical and
inherently fragile interfaces between men and women, between families and children, between local
communities and national leadership, between state and police brutality and people’s quiet, noble
and determined resistance.” – Prof. Bob Fryer, Former Principal, Northern College, UK
“Superb. A heart wrenching but also wonderful demonstration of a working class community
engaging in solidarity and self sacrifice in pursuit of a decent life for themselves and their children. It also drew powerful parallels with current government policy. 1926 soup kitchens – 2012 food banks; 1926 evictions – 2013 the new bedroom tax which will reduce housing benefit and lead to loss of homes; the police in 1926, 1984 and Hillsborough; the sacking of the strike leaders in 1926 – the 2012 proposals to reduce unfair dismissal protection; post 1st world war ‘homes fit for heroes’ with imperial medals and returning from Afghanistan to face redundancy and more. Nothing new under the sun!!” – Jim Sutherland, Former Director of Education for UNISON
“Totally amazing that the ‘little leaflet’ that came home in my sons schoolbag would lead to such a fantastic community project, and produce a good film of excellent quality, with ‘real folk’ – all with mining community links. The Happy Lands ‘gang’ now have their own community, treasured memories of long happy days, some cold some wet, but what laughs, a truly amazing experience and proud of the 3 year commitment from all involved.” – Elaine McBride, (participant, played Isa Beveridge)
“I’ve become stronger, I know more about myself, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. At the wrap it was like … when you win the gold medal… you felt somebody, you felt special”. – Jo Denholm (participant, played Molly Guthrie)
“I’ve changed as a person, hopefully for the better thanks to this project and that’s due to the care and support given. I’ve met so many great people through this and, though I may have said it before, it has totally made me regain my faith in humanity.” – Kevin Clarke, (participant, played Michael Brogan)
“Best time of my life for me and my children, and that will last forever. So proud of how it has been
produced also learned so much through the whole process which I shall pass on to everyone I
know.” Kim Donnachie, (participant, played Gracie McGregor)
“I found the film to be quite emotional as it brought back memories of the 1984 strike. I thought the acting was superb and the sense of community came over very well. My experience of this project has been nothing short of fantastic. I have met so many new friends and took part in something I never thought possible.” – Joki Wallace (participant played Dan Guthrie)
“People say ‘Braveheart’ inspires them and makes them proud to be Scottish. ‘The Happy Lands’ in my opinion overtakes it and is enhanced by the passion and professionalism shown on and off screen by my fellow Fifers.” – Richard Innes (audience member)
“The road show will profile The Happy Lands as a film with widespread grassroots support, speaking to the nation’s vivacious union and left wing communities, with an accompanying press campaign”. – Mark Borkowski, Happy Lands PR Strategy Document
“This moving film portrays how the mining villages of Fife and the working-class heroes who fought for better conditions were made to suffer during the nationwide stand against the bosses. It was only 1926. Eighty-seven years. Still living history. Not really so long ago. But its sounds like another world. A world where whole families stood against rapacious bosses and terrible hardship and endured, shoulder to shoulder. A world where a striking miner from Fife could be awarded an International Class War Medal after being arrested and jailed for fighting the good fight. Class war sounds a little quaint now. Like Socialism, we’re meant to be past all that.
When the Royal Bank of Scotland think it is just about acceptable to suggest their executives can get £250 million of bonus even as they work to convince taxpayers to pick up an expected £500 million fine for fixing interest-rates. When almost twice as many millionaires as was predicted will be £100,00 a year richer because of George Osborne’s tax cuts for the very highest earners. When our welfare state, our benefits and pensions system, built by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of our parents and grandparents, is under unprecedented attack from a pack of Eton-educated millionaires. When lifetime payments to everyone from the unemployed to hard-pressed families to our pensioners are being chiselled and cut.
At times like this it sounds like class war. It feels a little like class war too, and, right now, there is only one class winning. No they don’t give medals for class war nowadays. If they did, our Chancellor would be wearing his with pride.” – Sunday Mail, Editorial, February 3, 2013
“A powerful new film which avoids a preachy or sentimental caricature of the strike as good, honest workers fighting the evil bosses. It escapes this with compelling performances. Ex-Miner Joki Wallace is outstanding … funny and convincing. This well written story centres around three families, the trade unionist Guthries, the angry embattled Baxters and the Brogans. All of them are struggling with loyalty, honour, love and trust in the middle of the strike. The Happy Lands comes across as a real story told by real working class people. It feels authentic in a way that a big budget film with Holywood stars never could. It is also well produced and looks good. And it feels relevant to today.” – Greg Jones, Socialist Worker, 9 March 2013
“‘See your world differently’ is the slogan of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. That certainly applies to The Happy Lands. Impressively, it avoids the twin pitfalls of didacticism and amateurism. The use of local people, far from meaning that the film descends into well meaning therapy, allows the real voice of the key players to shine through.
In telling the story through the reactions of very different families – the solid union Guthries, the Brogan’s struggling with money and conscience and the dysfunctional Baxters – any threat of preachiness is avoided. We are swept up in their lives, both tragic and comic. The Happy Lands is more than social history, it is a warning to the future. Ultimately though it succeeds because it works as a film. We believe in it, are caught up in the families stories, and want to see how it pans out. It is a huge success for an innovative way of telling an important story.” – Chris Barter, Morning Star, February 21, 2013
“It’s a rare thing indeed for the working class to be sympathetically portrayed in film – without being patronised. Rarer still for the movie’s narrative to be based on the true stories of real working class people’s family histories, as told by them, and indeed mostly acted by them. And just about unique when the stories are not of couthy, folksy whims, but of naked class war.
Although the three central families portrayed are fictional, the story told is rooted in undoctored reality. Robert Rae and his team achieved this primarily through the unique methodology used: this is collaborative art at its best, where over the course of four years they sought the participation of Fifers from the (ex-)mining villages to capture what happened in the biggest confrontation between the working class and the capitalist rulers and their state forces in the history of this island.
A thousand local people took part in the project, gladly and freely giving 88,000 hours (equivalent to a combined 10 years!) of their time to telling stories handed down by family members involved in the 1926 general strike and subsequent 9-month lockout of the miners; training in theatre workshops, and eventually in many cases becoming the actors in a superb historical film of keen relevance today.
This methodology echoes some of the best traditions of real-life solidarity that the film seeks to portray. Gritty it sure is, and spoken in the unadulterated Fife tongue (with sub-titles!), but this film is in turn funny, heartbreaking, moving and uplifting.
The Happy Lands pulls no punches – without descending into sensationalism – in showing state brutality towards a working class that dares to challenge the rule of the rich, with kids arrested for picking bits of coal off bings to warm their houses; evictions; imprisonment of workers who dared fight back; the attempt to break the spirit and bodies of communities as they fought long and hard under the slogan “Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day”.
It avoids being crude or preachy in depicting the transformation of consciousness and understanding of workers through struggle. See The Happy Lands if you can. Laugh, cry, rage and resolve to emulate the spirit and dignity of those working class heroes, to avenge their defeat, to build the socialist future that so many of them dreamt of and sacrificed to achieve.” – Richie Venton on February 8, 2013,Scottish Socialist Voice
“The Happy Lands is an eye opening and impressive piece of filmmaking. It beautifully combines the past with the present, proving that while decades have passed since the general strike took place, there is still so much work to do be done within society to make things fair. This is a film that takes a refreshing look at poverty at a time when there was no such thing as the welfare state, at exploitation of workers and the lower classes, and perhaps most importantly, protest and dissent, reminding us that we shouldn’t take our rights for granted. Showcasing the natural, raw talent of the cast and contrasting it with the natural beauty to make a film that needs to be seen.” – Amy Taylor, TVBomb, February 2013
“The film is incredible! The script is so well written, and is even in the local Fife dialect … don’t worry, there are subtitles! The acting; it’s so hard to heap enough praise onto the cast for the passion, the realism that they showed. Jokie Wallace, a star in his portrayal of Dan Guthrie, has rightly been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA. We laughed, we cried, we left the cinema in no doubt that we had seen a film shot on a low budget that would put many of a Hollywood mega-bucks movie to shame.” – Lynne & Steve Harris, Rotten Tomatoes, March 22, 2013
“I saw The Happy Lands last night at The Gala Cinema Durham, along with my 18-year-old daughter, Iona. I loved it and she liked it a lot, although it’s far from her usual fare. I loved the film. I thought it was 100% true to the people I grew up with in the 50s and 60s, many of whom had lived through 1926. The whole community can be proud of this film and so can the film-makers. Together they’ve made one of the best films of its kind I’ve seen in a 40-year career in television and the media. I’m naturally inclined to favour this kind of film anyway, but sometimes they can be a bit too agit-prop and worthy. Not in this case. The heart of the film is the people and the power of their mutual support and kindredship/comradeship. It’s a community’s work of cinematic art. Wish I’d been there!” – Robert Duncan, Rotten Tomatoes. March 22 2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.