"500 years ago, a man was born who would change the face of Scotland forever." That is the dramatic introduction to the 2015 film "Knox", which is coming to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis on October 19 and Portree, Isle of Skye on October 20.
Presented by Scottish actor, Philip Todd, the film explores and celebrates the life of John Knox, the 16th century Protestant reformer. Dramatic animations and interviews make for an engaging and interesting viewing experience, chronicling John Knox's transformation from Catholic priest to Protestant revolutionary.
Producer and director, Murdo Macleod, grew up with a fascination for John Knox. "My dad had a portrait of him on the wall - it was part of my early childhood, so it made a big impression," he revealed. "I didn't know much about him, though." However, a recent Facebook post by one of Murdo's friends drew his attention to the fact that Knox's 500th anniversary was approaching. "I thought this was something that should be celebrated," Murdo said. "I checked to see if the BBC was commemorating it, and they weren't, so I wrote the script! A team was put together, partly through my personal contacts, as I attended the film school, RSAMD, but I got to work with a few people I had never met before."
Do you have to be a John Knox aficionado to view the film? Not necessarily! Murdo meets many people who have never heard of John Knox. "I say to them: 'What Luther was for Germany or Calvin was for Switzerland, John Knox was for Scotland. The effects of his reformation and revolution are felt today. Our film doesn't paint him as a saint - we show him as he was. That can be an uplifting thought and everyone can draw inspiration from the boldness Knox had in standing up against a prevailing medieval world view."
Knox is the first feature filmed by Trinity Digital, founded by Murdo. He explained: "Trinity Digital is a concept that allows churches to engage with film. Film is the main medium of communication for the 21st century. It shapes culture and world views. I feel passionate that the church, as a complete body of Christians across the world, should be using film to tell others about the Gospel."
Like his interest in Knox, Murdo's love of film-making originated in his childhood. At age eight, Murdo moved to the Isle of Skye. "I was part of the Drama Group and we did shows in the Aros Centre," Murdo said, referencing Skye's cinema, theatre and art centre. "That's where I caught the buzz. I remember in my final year at Portree High School, I put together my first film. Teachers lent me cameras for filming and I was allowed to stay long after everybody went home to work in the computer room. The film I made was an absolute disaster, but the process was a huge learning curve. If I hadn't done that, I probably wouldn't be in this situation now with my first feature released."
The Knox premiere took place on August 4 at John Knox House. Murdo related: "It received a very positive response. Given that it was largely our supporters and friends there, it would be difficult to get an objective view, but, on the whole, it was very positive and enthusiastic. In other situations, people have said it was very professional, very engaging and feels more like they are watching a film than a documentary. Since then, we have done other screenings in Glasgow, Belfast, Cornwall, Cambridge, Birmingham and Dundee." And it doesn't stop there! Talks are ongoing to broadcast Knox in North Africa, Romania and Bulgaria, with a translation into Arabic at the initial stages. "We are also in talks to distribute it in China and it has passed clearance for distribution in North America, as well as the UK channel, UCB and channels in Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia," Murdo related, enthusiastically. "It's going global! Funding for the film came from all over the world, so this is appropriate. It has been a global phenomenon from beginning to end."
To get a taster of the 1 hour and 18 minutes long film, you can view the trailer at https://vimeo.com/128689009. The screening of Knox in Stornoway will be hosted in connection with the Gambia Partnership, featuring an introduction by Rev. Dr. Iain D. Campbell. Knox will come to an Lanntair on Monday October 19 at 6pm and the Aros Centre, Portree on October 20 at 7:30pm.
(Interview by Roz Skinner)