Digging for drama | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Digging for drama 

The autobiographical films of Bill Douglas unearth a boyhood in a Scottish mining town

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These medium-length films constitute the first two parts of director Bill Douglas's autobiographical trilogy about growing up in a Scottish mining town. They represent the most valuable kind of personal filmmaking, with singular ideas about composition, editing, and even sound design appearing to have grown organically from the artist's own memories (in fact, Douglas shot the films in the very places where he was raised). Set in 1945, My Childhood (1972, 44 min.) finds the young Douglas stand-in living with his cousin and maternal grandmother and seeking companionship with a friendly German POW who works in the nearby fields. My Ain Folk (1973, 53 min.) begins with the grandmother's death and goes on to depict the boy's uneasy living arrangement with his ne'er-do-well father. Neither film is remotely sentimental, yet both convey a powerful sense of awe, as Douglas's stark, poetic style grants monumental status to a child's first impressions of poverty, sexuality, and death.

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