OF all the filmmakers represented at Eden Court’s 10th Inverness Film Festival, none is more delighted than director Ruaridh Arrow.
The former Millburn Academy pupil was very vocal in his disappointment last year when his documentary How To Start a Revolution, was not included in the 2011 line-up, despite already being an award winner.
His film focuses on Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gene Sharp, whose theories about non-violent protest were among the inspirations of 2011’s Arab Spring as a wave of political unrest spread across the Middle East and North Africa, and even saw Arrow join the protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as protests against president Hosni Mubarak reached their climax.
Since then the film has been seen by millions around the world. Translated into 10 languages, it has been screened on television in 23 countries — though Arrow notes that UK terrestrial channels have been slow to follow. Pirated versions on-line have added to the number of viewers. The Spanish television version was picked up by viewers in Mexico soon after that country’s most recent elections and quickly reached 750,000 hits.
Yet with all those who have already seen the film, Arrow is particularly delighted it is at last getting a festival screening in his home city.
"It’s a great relief," he said.
"Making a film is great, but the best thing is if we can get a group of students or schoolkids watch it and think: we can do it from here as well — we don’t have to go to Edinburgh or Glasgow."
Though filmed in locations from Egypt to Sharp’s home in Boston, the film was put together and financed in Inverness and Arrow hopes it might inspire other Highland based filmmakers to follow.
"A lot of people helped because it was crowdfunded as well and that’s an important part of the story," Arrow said.
"A lot of people don’t feel they can get funding up here, but if you have a great idea, you can put it on the web, ask for crowdfunding and get funding from the States or anywhere."
For Arrow, coming from Inverness has always been a strength. Such is the mystique and warm reputation of the Highlands, that whenever he tells people he is from Inverness, Arrow is all but guaranteed a positive reaction.
"I’m not trying to be some hotshot from New York or London," he said. "Plus everyone’s seen Braveheart! You go to Afghanistan and it’s: ‘You Scots are just like us!’
"That’s why I wanted Inverness Film Festival’s laurels on the poster. It’s advertising Inverness and showing what we can do from here. That’s what makes a film festival special. It’s a forum for showing what you can do in a way that putting it on at any other time in a little corner of it’s own doesn’t do."
Beyond any inspiration for north filmmakers, Arrow also hopes the wider public will take on board its wider message about political empowerment.
"It’s not just about starting a revolution, it’s about taking that first step," he said.
"If you do not feel politically empowered, even in a democracy, there are still things you can do. The demonstrations against the Iraq war were perhaps a dent in our belief in the power of protest, but there are other tools in the box."
As such, Arrow hopes that next weekend’s screening will attract people from environmental activists to church groups, just as the film has been simultaneously watched by the protestors of London’s Occupy movement and MPs and even studied by the British army.
Now studying at Harvard University in Massachusetts, Arrow is now working on writing what he calls the book of the flm, but this is not the only medium Sharp’s message has been translated into.
This week saw the launch of a computer app which allows viewers of the film to pause, access electronic versions of Sharp’s books in 10 languages, click on a world map showing areas of political protest and violence, then be instantly connected to Twitter feeds from the area, allowing the viewer to follow developments in real time and get a close up view of the location through maps and satellite photographs.
"You have to think of yourself as a multi-media journalist now," he said.
"You make the film, write the book, which can go on Kindle or iPad, and so on. I think the next project will draw these disciplines together."
That project could deal with one of the most common questions he is asked a screenings: after a successful revolution, what happens next?
"That could be a really successful next film to do," he said.
• How To Start a Revolution will be screened at Eden Court at 2.30pm on Saturday 10th November as part of the 10th Inverness Film Festival and will be followed by a Q & A with director Ruaridh Arrow.