The Bayview

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Bayview
"It's one where the camera less becomes a fly on the wall than a sleeping dog in front of the fireplace, one where the comfort of the subjects gives us a better insight into them." | Photo: Scottish Documentary Institute

An award winner at 2022's Glasgow Short Film Festival, The Bayview is (in the Jury's words) "a gentle portrayal of a tight community," and an example of the kind of "rural community often overlooked in nation building." Yet it's more than that. In a polyglot and multinational corner of Scotland, The Bayview Hotel is home to a community of international fishermen and more. They're from all corners: Tahiti, Tonga, Ghana, Macduff.

It's in many languages, from Fante to Doric. There's wisdom in the sense that "sometimes being a grump is very good" and much more in terms of how people and place mix. From a camera fixed on carrier bags to the delicate politics of food for the boats, Daniel Cook's film has leveraged a level of access into an astonishing portrait. It's one where the camera less becomes a fly on the wall than a sleeping dog in front of the fireplace, one where the comfort of the subjects gives us a better insight into them. The Bayview is a place where sailors from around the world can get a home-cooked meal but layered around that is the essence of the place as a home. One that reaches across docksides to vessels as only the smallest of divides.

This is a place at the intersection of privileges, of practises, of places. The name itself is an intersection of liminalities, the structure and those within it in a confluence of conditions that would make a Venn diagram as thick as a magnet dropped into a pool of iron filings. That attraction is part of the film's strength. When we've statistics like the 27% of UK fleet fishermen are migrants, the stories of individuals like Matthew, Susie and Jim are at once contrast and definition. A product of the Bridging the Gap documentary scheme, this is a melange whose quality is a product of both attention and time.

It's not the conversations about the quality of the goods in the 'free to take' box at a nearby charity shop, nor the discussions of jars or relative spice levels. It's not in haircuts or electricity meters. It's not on the radio, even with the opening strains of Sailing By. It's not in any one thing, though each is in itself a window to the whole. Describing a community as "something made by lots of individuals" and "recontextualising landscapes both inner and outer," it was a deserving winner. Director Daniel Cook is no stranger to success at GSFF. His earlier film The King And I was similarly awarded. Here the presentation is perhaps more conventional but the quality is no less present.

I say "more conventional" if only because here we've a conditional aspect, though the ratio of documentarian to subject is similarly balanced. Amongst the many rules of thumb is how the camera can tilt the scales; what we see is not all there is to see. Yet with the Bayview our field of vision feels wide enough not to cover every corner, every case, but the shape and feel of the thing. The map is not the territory, but you can get a sense of it, and here (again) Cook has done justice with an open eye.

Reviewed on: 24 May 2022
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A glimpse into the world of a family who have turned the previously derelict hotel into a place of respite for international fishermen when they come to land.

Director: Daniel Cook

Year: 2021

Runtime: 18 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

EIFF 2021
GSFF 2022

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