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Lesley Riddich is a guest at Cromarty Film festival this weekend and will introduce her favourite film The Long Kiss Goodnight on Friday which stars Geena Davis and on Sunday, her film Faroe Islands – The Connected Nation made with Al McMaster

By Margaret Chrystall

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SPEAK to journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and the movies she has chosen to present at Cromarty Film Festival this weekend make perfect sense.

Talking about the research done for the trilogy of films she made about Nordic countries, Lesley said: “I don’t get interested in anything on paper, but from life – I try to find out why things are the way they are.”

Broadcaster, journalist, Scotsman columnist and filmmaker Lesley Riddoch.
Broadcaster, journalist, Scotsman columnist and filmmaker Lesley Riddoch.

Lesley is the kind of goes-the-extra-mile person who made the effort to learn Norwegian so she could do a PhD comparing Norway and Scotland.

You sense a kindred spirit in Geena Davis – the actress who speaks Swedish, is a member of MENSA, an Olympic archer and stars as the greatest action franchise heroine who never was in sassy one-off thriller The Long Kiss Goodnight, the favourite film Lesley will present along with her own.

Lesley said: “Geena is basically the action hero young women had never seen at that point. Essentially she should have been the next Bond! She is also astonishing – she is six foot tall, and as a five foot 11er, that is fine!”

Lesley explains how her interest in the Nordic countries began – it started through her mother.

“My mother is from Caithness and we all thought we were Vikings!” Lesley laughed. “I grew up in Belfast, but we went back to Caithness every summer, so I just drank in the Nordic stuff.

“I just thought ‘We’re Nordic at the back of it and one day I’ll get there!’ – and I did, and was blown away by how well these countries, with infinitely bigger problems of remoteness and so on than we have, how well they are doing in comparative terms.”

Lesley Riddoch who is a guest at this weekend's Cromarty Film Festival.
Lesley Riddoch who is a guest at this weekend's Cromarty Film Festival.

Lesley has spent 10 years exploring Scotland’s Nordic neighbours and set up a think tank called Nordic Horizons which has been taking speakers over to the Scottish Parliament annually.

On the day Lesley comes to Cromarty, she has a spoken exam – a viva voce – for her PhD in the morning at Strathclyde University.

“I have to come out of the viva and drive all the way hell for leather to get to Cromarty for the first film!” she laughed.

Her film about the Faroes is the one of the three made so far to be shown at the film festival.

Lesley Riddoch's film with Al McMaster about the Faroe Islands will be screened on Sunday at 1pm in the Old Buoy Store in Cromarty as part of the film festival.
Lesley Riddoch's film with Al McMaster about the Faroe Islands will be screened on Sunday at 1pm in the Old Buoy Store in Cromarty as part of the film festival.

With another film-maker, Al McMaster, of Phantom Power Films, Lesley thought Scots really don’t know enough about our Nordic neighbours.

“We crowdfunded the money and did the films on an absolute shoestring.

“The Faroes one, I was there chairing a conference for the Faroese people and Al the filmmaker slept in a tent at about zero degrees in a hurricane.

“What an amazing set of people they are,” she said, her admiration of the Faroese obvious. “They’ve got the world’s fastest mobile broadband. They were ignored by Google Streetview, so set up Google Sheepview, strapped cameras onto the back of sheep. Because of the fabulous broadband, they broadcast live and this made the point so much that Google ended up – sheepishly – coming to the Faroes to put them on Goggle Streetview!

“Every kind of battle they have won and with great humour and ingenuity!”

Lesley makes a great case for the action heroine career Geena Davis has never had, so her introduction to the film on Friday should make interesting listening for anyone who has never seen much of Davis's work – including well-regarded movies such as A League Of Their Own and her TV series Commander In Chief about the first female US president – the role won her a Golden Globe for best actress.

"She is a very smart woman and I can feel that through everything that she has done – and through this role," said Lesley of 1996's The Long Kiss Goodnight.

"She is not just a pretty face and boy does she deliver.

"It’s just such a shame the film wasn’t critically well-acclaimed. Her career sort of bombed after it. She had made the film with her then-husband and divorced him two years later.

"She once said 'Until I entered my 40s, I made roughly one film a year, but in my entire 40s I only made one film'. She also made the point that the generation slightly older and ahead of her – with Meryl Streep – seemed to fight their way through.

"But Geena was very philosophical about it.

"In 2004 she set up the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to offset gender discrimination in the media which was all before the #MeToo stuff – and she became a mother at the age of 46.

"She has kicked convention right upside down as a woman and that just transmits itself in all her films.

"I could have chosen Thelma And Louise, but I prefer this one – partly because Thelma And Louise is so sad.

"But this one is ass-kicking, with a woman really finding herself and it's also a blockbuster action special that should have all the guys watching it as well!

"She should have been the next Bond!"

Lesley added: "I think personally I have always been quite interested in shifting the mainstream of our culture, not letting things be tidied away into corners."

The Long Kiss Goodnight is at Cromarty’s Victoria Hall, on Friday at 7.30pm. Faroe Islands – The Connected Nation is at the Old Buoy Store,on Sunday at 1pm. www.cromartyfilmfestival.org

Full interview: www.whatson-north.co.uk

Links to Lesley’s films are at: www.lesleyriddoch.co.uk

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