domingo, 3 de junio de 2012

Eriskay - a poem of remote lives (1935)

Runtime: 17:42
Language: English
Country: UK
Color: Black and white

 Director: Werner Kissling


"Made in 1934 by an amateur ethnographer and aristocratic German diplomat who had abandoned his country to live in Scotland, this is one of the earliest film portraits of the tiny island Eriskay, famous for Whiskey Galore, the Eriskay Love Lilt, the Eriskay fisherman's jersey, and the fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie first set foot on Scottish soil on this island, when he returned from France to lead the rebellion. Eriskay sits at the bottom of the long chain of the outer Hebrides, running from Lewis in the North, through Harris, through North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, and nearby Barra...

 Kissling filmed the 500 islanders at work, men and women, girls and boys, setting off in their herring smacks, shearing, gathering peats, collecting lichen for dying their tweed, spinning, carding, waulking, and recorded their beautiful working songs... "

 An evocative account, inspired by Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran (1934), of the lives of the Gaelic speaking inhabitants of Eriskay, a remote island in the Scottish Hebridean archipelago, made by German aristocrat Werner Kissling during a three months sojourn on the island to collect the traditional songs and photograph the local 'blackhouse'. Kissling, born in Silesia in 1895, was a professional soldier and diplomat. Political differences with the new regime in Germany led him to quit his post with their diplomatic service in London in 1934 and devote his life to his hobby of photographing and sketching the lives of the Hebridean islanders of the north west fringes of Scotland. He made only one film, Eriskay: A Poem of Remote Lives (1935), shot on silent stock, with Gaelic dialogue, music and narrative added later in a London studio. The funds raised at the London premiere of the film in 1935 were given to the people of Eriskay, who used the money to build the road that stills serves as the only route across the island today. Kissling never returned to Germany but settled in Scotland pursuing his still photography and ethnographic collecting. He died in 1988 aged 83. This is believed to be the earliest film with Gaelic language dialogue.

 Dr. Werner Friedrich Theodor Kissling (or Kißling) (11 April 1895, Breslau, Germany – 3 February 1988, Dumfries, Scotland) was an amateur ethnographer and amateur photographer. He left a rich legacy of photographs and film of the traditional customs and crafts of various world communities, a legacy, which today, now forms a remarkable, valuable record of ‘ways of life’, which have now vanished. The communities that he studied include, the crofters of Eriskay and South Uist, Scotland, the farmers and fisherfolk of Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, the Māori of New Zealand, and the craftsmen of North Yorkshire, England.

 Kissling was an intriguing figure, who, though born into an aristocratic, land-owning family, managed to ‘dispose’ of his multi-million pound inheritance and die penniless in a Dumfries old folk’s home. In his twenties, as a young German diplomat, he was rich, had social status and had an apparent, assured career in front of him. Yet he chose to turn his back on all the privileges that life had afforded him, and pursue his amateur interests in ethnography and photography.

 Kissling is best known for the short film, “Eriskay - A Poem of Remote Lives”, which is based on his unique footage, shot in 1934, of crofting life on the island of Eriskay in the Western Isles of Scotland. His mother, Johanna, was a central figure in his life. In 1905, she had toured the Western Isles (the Outer Hebrides and St Kilda), and, from there, she had sent a postcard to her 10 year old son, Werner, back in Germany. When Kissling died, 83 years later, that same postcard would still be in his possession, found in his single suitcase, in his room. Más info:

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