The Guga Hunters of Ness, Scotland, 2011, 59 minutes, digital projection
On a remote Scottish isle an ancient and secretive tradition continues. Ten men set sail on a unique adventure to hunt seabirds and bring the meat back to the community of Ness.
The hunting of sea birds was outlawed in 1954 in the UK, but the community of Ness on the Isle of Lewis continues to be granted the only exemption under UK and EU law allowing them to hold the annual hunt. Every August ten men from Ness set sail for Sula Sgeir, a desolate island far out in the Atlantic. Following in the footsteps of countless generations, they leave their normal lives behind to journey through storms and high seas to reach the remote hunting ground on this unique adventure.
The men live on the island for two exhausting weeks, sleeping in old stone bothies among ruins built by Celtic monks over a thousand years ago. They work ceaselessly, catching, killing and processing 2000 birds using traditional methods before returning home with this rare meat so cherished by the people of Ness.
For fifty years the hunters kept their activities out of the public eye, refusing countless approaches from film makers. Mike Day managed to win their trust and has produced a unique and fascinating glimpse into this long hidden tradition.
“A gorgeously shot documentary feature that takes viewers into the heart of this ancient tradition, celebrating its longevity and lamenting its decline without once being patronizing, overly worthy or dull. The Guga Hunters Of Ness is poetic, haunting, its beautiful imagery making it hard to look away.” – EYE FOR FILM
The Film has screened at Glasgow International Film Festival, the Celtic Media Festival and broadcast on BBC2 in January 2011.
Michael Day worked originally as a Middle Eastern specialist and lawyer in Dubai and London before retraining as a filmmaker. He founded Intrepid Cinema in 2009 before making The Guga Hunters of Ness. A self shooting director, Mike trained on cameras from the family photography business, established by his great grand father in Scotland in 1918.
Jennifer Merin has written about film for 20 years. She covers documentaries for About.com and is the film critic for Women’s eNews. She reports of film and cultural matters for Westwood One Radio Network’s morning drive news magazine, “America In The Morning,” and has reviewed films and interviewed filmmakers for New York Press, a leading alt weekly newspaper, andcontributed to TheReeler.com. Jennifer’s worked as newswriter/editor for ABC and CNN, and reporter for NBC. Her ongoing weekly column about culture and travel has resided in the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and is currently distributed by ArcaMax publishing. Jennifer is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit association of women covering film and the movie industry. AWFJ presents the annual EDA Awards. Jennifer edits and publishes AWFJ Women On Film, the organization’s syndicated journal. Jennifer holds an MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied and worked with many of today’s leading filmmakers.