Everybody’s Child


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Everybody's Child
"In taking us on a tour of Muirhouse. Fraser doesn't try to cover anything up."

Neds. Schemies. Chavs. Bogans. Everywhere you go, there's a word for them, the social cast-offs relegated to the council housing estates, growing up there generation after generation - most of them working, despite the stereotypes, but in the kind of dead-end blue collar jobs that ensure they will never escape poverty. It's hard to get much more than casual work when you have to put 'Muirhouse' on your CV. Once dubbed 'the AIDS capital of Europe', and not without reason, Muirhouse has it particularly bad, with endemic heroin problems, alcoholism, gangs and violence. Ubiquitous cameras make it feel like a prison. "Is it any wonder we cover our faces?" a hooded teenager asks.

Ignored by most of society, these estates are sometimes the subject of well-intentioned films by outsiders, but there's always the danger of their poverty being romanticised. Occasionally a survivor gets to speak, like Peter Mullen with his semi-autobiographical NEDS. It's a much, much rarer thing to hear the voice of somebody still there. Garry Fraser grew up in care; even as a child he was routinely beaten and sexually assaulted; he spent years as a heroin addict and dealer, dishing out the kind of violence he'd learned to take for granted. He credits the filmmaking course that he happened across with saving his life. It has also enabled a remarkable talent to emerge.

Copy picture

Bookending the film are Fraser's decision to go for an HIV test, and his final receipt of the result, whose meaning may not be quite what viewers expect. He's off the heroin now - onto a cocktail of prescribed medication instead - but it's a tough process every day and he longs to be completely clean. Watching this film will shatter any illusions viewers have about addiction being a thing that can go away. The pain and the longing will last a lifetime, and Fraser knows it - but he has three children now and he's determined to do right by them. Although he talks about struggling to control his temper, the family we see looks happy and close; despite the guilt that weighs on him, his crushing certainty that if there is a God then he's going to Hell, there is hope here that the cycle of violence might be broken. And that hope carries its own bitter message: that it only takes a few days of commitment from someone who gives a damn to help someone like this turn his life around, but that's more than most of us are prepared to give.

In taking us on a tour of Muirhouse. Fraser doesn't try to cover anything up. As his friends complain about the ridiculousness of outsiders crossing the street to avoid them, the camera takes in the swords on the wall, and we've seen enough already to know they might be more than ornamental. An older friend talking about living with AIDS in the early days, when people reacted to it with panic, also tells us the story of a man who asked him for some of his blood so he could infect himself and thereby get more social security benefits. But we see a lot more than this. On a visit to nearby Pilton (which has its own fantastic video project giving young people hope of change), he talks about the danger he faced as a kid after his mother found a boyfriend there, the very real risk of violence simply because he was from another estate. What he has to say about the care system will surprise no-one who has read the news in recent months, but it's still much more hard-hitting to hear it from someone who was there.

Nick Higgins' recent We Are Northern Lights was ground breaking in its inclusion of all Scotland's people, including those most city councils prefer to hide away. Fraser's film shows that people from the schemes have the stories and skills to produce much more than just short snippets. With clarity, wit and a rawness seasoned filmmakers will envy, he takes us on a journey that everyone should make at lest once. It's a film that deserves to be distributed far and wide.

Reviewed on: 01 Feb 2014
Share this with others on...
A documentary about growing up in Muirhouse and the challenges faced by people living in housing schemes.

Director: Garry Fraser

Starring: Garry Fraser

Year: 2013

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: UK

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Christmas With Dad
Wasted Time