Set in Portaran, a small coastal town in Dumfries and Galloway, Blackbird centres on Ruadhan, a young man with a real interest in the old Scottish songs. He idolises the town's bard, Alec, and loves to sit in the cafe listening to the singers. He is devastated when one of the old singers dies and becomes determined to learn the songs so he can preserve them for the future. The older singers, however, seem reluctant to share their songs.
Meanwhile, the fish are mysteriously dying and there are few jobs so the young people are leaving the village. Ruadhan doesn't like seeing things changing around him, least of all the incomers with their idea for a trendy new cafe, which he thinks will destroy the traditional social hub that centres on the old cafe. At the same time his commitment to the past is quite passive and despite his love of music, he isn't keen to sing in public.
Will Ruadhan overcome his shyness and develop his talents? Will he commit to staying in town to play a positive role in preserving the local traditions? Or will he join the other young people in the long exodus from town?
It's a beautifully shot film with a soundtrack of music by the Scottish musician Martyn Bennett. The story though is unremittingly downbeat. I felt the film could have been more positive and upbeat without betraying the essential truth about the situation in many areas of rural Scotland. Wouldn't it nice to have a film of this type that not only represents the present as it is but also inspires a confidence that we can create a vibrant future that celebrates our traditions?
Blackbird is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival:
2050, 25 June (at Filmhouse) and 1825, 27 June (Cineworld) (I think both screenings are sold out, but expect the film will get general release in Scottish cinemas at least).
Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.