Cinema Scope

Presence and Poetry

ince her passing in 1999, the Scottish poet, filmmaker, and visual artist Margaret Tait has become more visible and celebrated than she ever was in her lifetime, her modesty and reticence now replaced by the zeal of the many academics, curators, and archivists who have set about exploring and restoring her diverse body of work. This reclamation has been spearheaded most notably by Sarah Neely, who has established herself as the pre-eminent academic authority on Tait, and by the artist’s husband Alex Pirie, who provided much of the materials for the restoration project: Janet McBain and Alan Russell of the Scottish Screen Archive recalled how Pirie delivered a collection of 150 cans of film between October 1999 and October 2000, taking the overnight ferry across the Pentland Firth and arriving in Glasgow as the archive was opening in the morning. Restoration was a painstaking process, but it was followed by widespread, virtually overnight success in Tait’s native Caledonia. A retrospective of her work was shown during the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2004; in 2010, the Margaret Tait Award was established by the Glasgow Film Festival to support experimental Scottish filmmakers; the majority of Tait’s short films have now been made accessible through the National Library of Scotland’s Media Archive; and this past November saw the launch of the year-long centenary which includes a travelling package of films courtesy of LUX Scotland and exhibitions throughout Scotland, as well as ten newly commissioned films.

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