Luke Fowler

Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait, 2022

16mm transferred to digital file, 60mins

‘The contradictory or paradoxical thing is that in documentary the real things depicted are liable to lose their reality by being photographed and presented in that “documentary” way, and there’s no poetry in that. In poetry, something else happens. Hard to say what it is. Presence, let’s say, soul or spirit, an empathy with whatever it is that’s dwelt upon, feeling for it – to the point of identification.’ – Margaret Tait

Drawing on a wealth of unseen archival material, including sound recordings, film rushes, offcuts and unpublished notebooks, Luke Fowler’s new feature film focuses on Margaret Tait, one of Scotland’s most enigmatic filmmakers. The film takes one of Tait’s unrealised scripts for Channel 4, entitled Heartlandscape: Visions of Ephemerality and Permanence, as its starting point and considers Tait's life and work grounded within the landscape of Orkney. Tait was not interested in filming the scenery but instead looked at the precise details that constitute a place, the small things that are often overlooked. Exploring the process of filmmaking itself from the perspective of a fellow artist sensitive to Tait’s understanding of film as a poetic medium, Being in a Place pays tribute to the strengths in her method, the importance of fragmented bodies of work, and the intrinsic value in failure.

"Being In A Place wonderfully evokes Tait’s cinema and her project to give equal voice to local peoples and landscapes whilst defining a mode of cinema poised between realism and poetry. The ribboning roads of Orkney that recur throughout Fowler's film define its meditative rhythm and project to create a palimpsest layering the ancient, present and future and, ultimately, meditating on film itself as a complexly multilayered medium."
Haden Guest, Director, Harvard Film Archive

I’d give an awful lot to sit down with Margaret Tait; to hear her talk of her seemingly tireless (although I suspect it was anything but) commitment to making the films she wanted to make, unassuming and unbound. Luke Fowler’s Being in a Place is the closest I’ll come to that conversation and I’m grateful for it.

Charlotte Wells, Director, NYC

Past Screenings


17 Feb Berlinale Film Festival, Premiere

24 Feb Doc Fortnight, MoMA, NYC

5 Mar Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

25/30 Mar Cinéma du Réel, Paris

30 Mar Courtisane festival, Ghent

19/23 Apr EMAF, Osnabrück

27 Apr/ 7 May IndieLisboa

27 Apr/ 7 May Hot Docs Toronto

1/3 Jun FICUNAM, Mexico City

28 Jun Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

29 Jun Folk Film Gathering, Edinburgh

24 Aug Festival International du Film Insulaire de Groix (Brittany)

29 Aug Screenplay Festival, Shetland

12 Sept Open City, London

4 Oct Wexner Center, Ohio

12 Oct Mirage Film Festival, Oslo

19/31 Oct Viennale

3 Nov Inverness Film Festival, Eden Court

5 Nov Timespan, Helmsdale

6 Nov The New Phoenix Cinema, Kirkwall

11 Nov Dunoon Film Festival

11 Nov Dundee Contemporary Arts

16 Nov Cromarty Cinema

24 Nov Filmmaker Festival, Milano

20 Dec MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling

12 Dec Glasgow Film Theatre

15 Dec Cample Line, Dumfriesshire


24 Mar Cromarty Hall, St Margaret’s Hope

26 Mar Pier Arts Centre, Stromness

27 Mar Malta Biennale

30 Mar Gable End Theatre, Hoy

13 April Harvard Film Archive

15 April Anthology Film, New York City

18 April Lightbox Film Center, Philadelphia

20 April National Gallery of Art, D.C.

All images courtesy of Luke Fowler, The Estate of Margaret Tait and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow.