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The short docs screening is always the short film screening that I most look forward to at the Inverness Film Festival. Mostly because the films are almost always by or about people from or living in the Inverness area. The rare ones that aren’t always have some connection back to the Highlands. It’s always a timely reminder of how many interesting stories there are to be told about the area and it almost always makes me want to get out there and make my own.

Not least because this year, of the five films, there were only three directors between them.

Ethie & Coire Eilde
Both of these were outdoor adventure films directed by Mike Webster and featuring adventurer and wildlife photographer James Roddie. They both felt a bit like being on a guided gorge walk with them, without the danger of getting cold or wet – or injuring yourself! A couple of vicarious adventures through stunning scenery with personable guides. A very pleasant journey.

Woman Up & Riding Through the Dark
Are both films about cycling, though very different ones, by director Katrina Brown. Woman Up is only three minutes long and is that rarity for me; a short film I wished was longer. Eilidh is a compelling subject and her struggle to find her way to fitness and acceptance of her own body was moving and engaging. And just when I was hooked on her story, it ended.

Riding through the Dark feels like a follow up to the previous film, although it features a completely different cast of characters and a very different type of biking – road biking rather than mountain biking. It follows two very different groups of cyclists, one elite long distance athletes and the other a local cycle to health group. However both groups contain members who have – and continue to – struggled with mental health issues and whose continuing recovery is helped both by the physical act of cycling and the support they’ve found from their fellow cyclists. Often documentaries with a philosophical or metaphorical title can end up being a bit twee and pat in their conclusions, but here the metaphor felt appropriate and apt. The longest film of the lot, but by far my favourite.

This was definitely the oddest film of the bunch. It’s certainly successful in creating a sense of alienation and failure of connection/communication. Perhaps the lack of connection I felt to the interview subject and my failure to really understand what Alexithymia really is – is it a symptom of a mental illness, or an aspect of neurodiversity? – was intentional on the part of director Duncan Cowles. Or perhaps the film just wasn’t very good. Either way, it was a very long ten minutes.