I have visited the island of Iona (off the island of Mull off the west coast of Scotland) only once but it is a magically beautiful place so I was keen to see the film Iona, which was chosen as the closing gala of the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. The island is the star of the film, with it's beautiful scenery, slow moving farm animals and constant birdsong. Nothing in the story for me lives up to the beauty of the setting.
Iona returns to the island of her birth, escaping from a violent crime in Glasgow, bringing her son with her. The two of them move in temporarily and uneasily with an old friend of Iona's.
Her return to the island stirs up old unresolved situations and causes tensions among her old friends who are both happy and bemused to see her back. As secrets and conflicts come to the surface the film quickly becomes melodramatic.
The film seems to represent the island as a whole as an intentional Christian community, which it isn't. Yes the island is a close knit community and many islanders (though not all) are Christian (However the predominant church is the Church of Scotland not the strict Calvinist Free Church of many Hebridean islands, the latter being what seems to be portrayed in the film, while in reality there isn't a Free Church on the island). On the other hand, the Iona Community is a worldwide ecumenical Christian community with its centre in a residential community based at Iona Abbey. That and the fact that Iona is the island where Christianity first came to Scotland are the reasons that Iona is seen as an important Christian centre. There are in fact tensions between the Iona Community (which isn't even mentioned in the film) and the islanders. All of which makes the extreme piousness of all the islanders in the film somewhat unrealistic.
Iona was the closing gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015. To be honest I would have gone for Scottish Mussel, upbeat, entertaining with something important to say. Though perhaps with its English lead/writer/director that film isn't Scottish enough to qualify for the honour?
To read my other reviews from the festival, follow the links below:
Blood Cells - one man's journey after he lost everything in the foot and mouth epidemic.
Scottish Mussel - romantic comedy centred on the fight to conserve the freshwater pearl mussel
Liza the Fox Fairy - a 'delightfully bonkers' film from Hungary
Black Mountain Poets - sisters on the run join a poetry retreat in the Welsh mountains
Desert Dancer - drama inspired by the life of Iranian dancer Afshin Ghaffarian
Under Milk Wood - a new cinematic interpretation of Dylan Thomas' classic prose poem
Brand New U - futuristic thriller / love story
Of Chickens and Camels
- a review of Chicken (a wonderful coming of age film about a teenager
with learning difficultie) and Nearby Sky (a documentary about the camel
beauty contests in the Emirates).
Infini - disaster on an off-planet mine
La Tirisia - love and life in the cacti covered mountains of Mexico
When Elephants Fight - conflict minerals in Congo
Iron Ministry - a cinematic journey through China by rail
Index Zero - dystopian SF set in a future Fortress Europe
30 Days Wild goes to the cinema - how the landscape backdrops two films set in very different countries (Sand Dollars and The Gulls)
Find out which were my choices as Best of the Fest.
Disclaimer: I had a press pass for the Film Festival and attended free press screenings for these films.