Light Movement 16: Margaret Tait

Light Movement 16.
Sonntag 16 Okt, Spektrum Berlin, screening 8pm
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Margaret Tait

Margaret Tait was one of Britain's most unique and individual artist filmmakers. Over the course of 46 years she produced over 30 films including one feature, and published three books of poetry and two volumes of short stories, while living between Orkney and Edinburgh.
Tait described her life's work as consisting of making film-poems, and denied suggestions that they were documentaries of diary films. She often quoted Lorca's phrase of "stalking the image" to define her philosophy and method, believing that if you look at an object closely enough it will speak its nature. This clarity of vision and purpose, with an attention to simple commonplace subjects, combined with a rare sense of inner rhythm and pattern, give her films a transcendental quality, while still remaining firmly rooted within the everyday.  With characteristic modesty, Tait once said of her films, that they are born of "of sheer wonder and astonishment at how much can be seen in any place that you choose ... if you really look".


Three Portrait Sketches, UK, 1951, 10min, B&W, Silent, 16mm
A Portrait of Ga, UK, 1952, 5min Colour, sound, 16mm
Where I Am Is Here, UK, 1964, 35min, B&W, sound, 16mm

The most part of this program is dedicated to the longer form film Where I am Is Here.  One of Tait's key works, this film is rich in a feeling of warmth and simplicity, evoking the human spirit within the everyday tasks and trials of its depicted citizens.

The following notes are reproduced from the booklet Margaret Tait - Werkschau by Ute Aurand, reprinted 1999 from the original accompaniment of her 1994 film-program of Tait's work.

"Starting with a six-line script which just noted down a kind of event to occur, and recur, my aim was to construct a film with its own logic, its own correspondences within itself, its own echoes and rhymes and comparisons, all through close exploration of the everyday, the commonplace, in the city, Edinburgh, where I stayed at the time.
The music, 'Hilltop pibroch'  by Hector MacAndrew, is a setting of my poem of that name, and it is played on the fiddle by Hector himself, and sung by the music-hall artiste. Lilane (Lilian Gunn), who accompanies herself on the piano-accordion." - M.T.

"Where I Am is Here uses methods of poetry and painting to tell the stoniness and beauty of a city. The city is Edinburgh and the poet is Margaret Tait. She evokes, from the interaction seeming prosaic images of the present and a haunting soundtrack, precisely those elements of dream, mystery, foreboding and wonder that enable her to understand its meaning for her."
Murray Grigor
Edinburgh Film Festival 1970

The seven titles within the film are:


Three Portrait Sketches
Early experiments in portraiture, made in Italy. Portraits of 1: Claudia Donzelli; 2: Saulat Rahman; 3: Fernando Birri.

A Portrait of Ga
Portrait of the film maker's mother. Filmed back on Orkney.

further research

Essay by Peter Todd (lux online)

Remembering Margaret Tait By Annabel Nicolson, Peter Todd, Ute Aurand and Sarah Wood (Vertigo magazine)

some interesting found fragments at

Short interview (audio) with Alex Pirie (writer and partner of M.T.) "(a thistle is always still a thistle)"

With special thanks to Ute Aurand


Light Movement 16: Margaret Tait
Sonntag 16 Okt, screening 8pm

Bürknerstraße 12,
12047 Berlin

U8 Schönleinstr.