Scottish short selected for Oscar-qualifying film festival

Documentary Borderline explores mental health problems through dance.

by Jennie Kermode

Lynn Shaw in Borderline
Lynn Shaw in Borderline Photo: George Geddes / Magic B Films

After screening at the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival last year and the Glasgow Short Film Festival earlier this year, Scottish short Borderline has been picked up by the Palm Springs International Shortfest, it was announced this week. The festival is important because films screened there are eligible for Oscar consideration.

Centred on dancer and chreographer Lynn Shaw, the film explores the subject of borderline personality disorder (BPD) through the medium of dance. Director Lyndsay Goodall says she took this approach for two reasons. "I wanted Lynn to be the focus of film and I felt that it should have her voice. I didn't want to speak to medical professionals or do anything that might undermine her experience. She's very articulate and self aware and I think listening to her is more powerful than having lots of different voices. Dance plays a massive part in her life and she felt could sort confront her problems that way. It's her art form and it's how she expresses herself.

"I didn't want to show the finished performance because I wanted to capture Lynn at her most creative, which is when she's improvising - as she says, 'Let's play!'"

Goodall has previously explored mental health issues in Irene, a short film about her grandmother's experience of Alzheimer's disease and the effect it had on her family, which won top prize at Palm Springs in 2009. In the case of Borderline, the film was driven by its subject.

"Lynn approached our producer and he approached me. She had worked with the producer - Robbie [Fraser] - a number of years ago. It's quite unusual for a documentary contributor to instigate the process. Normally I find a character or a subject and then I have to explain why their story would make a good film.

"It's a very collaborative process for a couple of reasons - partly because it was Lynn's idea so she has ownership over the film; also because I wanted to be sure that Lynn was comfortable at every stage because it's such a personal film and I didn't want her to feel too exposed."

The film is now being submitted to other festivals and Goodall says she may consider making it available online in the future. She's also interested in the possibility of putting it to use as an educational tool.

"It's very exciting!" she says of the Palm Springs opportunity. The festival runs in January, just before the Oscar longlist is compiled.

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