The dynamic trio take film honours to Scotland

Movie culture is thriving north of the border, writes John Arlidge
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The Independent Online
THE best Scottish film since Gregory's Girl will receive its world premiere in Glasgow this week. Trainspotting, the screen adaptation of Irvine Welsh's cult novel about Edinburgh drug addicts, is the latest in a series of new works which confirm Scotland as the centre of Britain's film industry.

The much-hyped movie, made by the Glasgow-based trio behind last year's top-selling British feature Shallow Grave, is certain to become the most talked about film of the year. Industry sources say it is also important - the best UK feature since Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette - because it will give a huge boost to domestic film makers.

The low-budget Trainspotting is made by producer Andrew Macdonald, 30, screenwriter John Hodge, 31, and director Danny Boyle, 39. They are part of a new generation of Scottish film makers who were inspired by Bill Forsyth's 1980s Glasgow-made triumphs, Gregory's Girl and Local Hero, which were at the centre of the last Caledonian film boom.

Mark Cousins, the director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, argues that the most energetic cinema now comes from north of the border. "Macdonald, Hodge and Boyle are the most dynamic, successful young film-makers in Britain today," he said. "After Shallow Grave they are very well known. But behind them there is a raft of other Scots youngsters making films who will soon be enjoying success. Scottish cinema is flourishing."

While Hollywood looks to the Highlands, and established English film makers re-visit the past with Shakespearean dramas and period pieces, Scotland's young pretenders are furiously unravelling the present.

Trainspotting, funded by Channel 4, tells the story of four low-lifers growing up in the deprived Muirhouse district of Edinburgh in the late 1980s. Unemployed and with little hope of finding a job, they get caught up in the heroin/Aids epidemic.

The horrifying, exhilarating film has already attracted criticism because it shows the junkie quartet enjoying drugs. Right-wing columnists have condemned it as dangerous and immoral. But thousands of youngsters, excited by the aggressively contemporary portrayal of Britain's burgeoning drugs culture, are clamouring to see it. In Edinburgh the UCI multiplex has reserved two screens for the film and hired extra staff to handle bookings. London cinemas have started taking calls. Two weeks before the film is released, advance sales exceed production costs.

Clare Binns, director of programming at the Gate cinema in London's Notting Hill, the Ritzy in Brixton and Edinburgh's Cameo, said: "There has not been so much pre-launch enthusiasm for a British film since Chariots of Fire 16 years ago. Trainspotting has touched a nerve - particularly with the young - and is going to be massive."

Interest in the film will not only help Macdonald, Hodge and Boyle - they have already had offers from Hollywood - but it will attract new film finance to Scotland, giving a much-needed boost to up-and-coming Scottish producers and directors. Some like Peter Capaldi, who starred in Local Hero and whose short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life won the first Scottish Oscar for 30 years last year, are recognised talents. Most, however, are unknown outside industry circles. But Mr Cousins insists they will soon graduate from art-house short movies to mainstream features.

Andrew Macdonald, the driving force behind Trainspotting, is reluctant to cast himself, Boyle and Hodge as the cinematic leaders of the new Scottish "awakening". He prefers to describe their successful partnership as "an accident of geography and history". He is, however, proud to have a second Scottish hit on his hands and hopes it will encourage investors to back other Scots artists.

Trainspotting will open on 23 February.