BoB Curated Playlists

Bill Douglas, a Film Artist
Dr Phil Wickham, University of Exeter

Bill Douglas, Cinema Now (BBC1, 1973)


Bill Douglas was a unique and distinctive filmmaker. His career began in his late 30s and he was only able to make a small body of work before his untimely death in 1991 but the films he was able to make have left an indelible impression on the audiences lucky enough to see them. The three films known as The Bill Douglas Trilogy; My Childhood (1972), My Ain Folk (1973) and My Way Home (1978) are inspired by his own deprived childhood in a mining village in Scotland but present a stunningly intense, poetic view through its child protagonist Jamie’s eyes before he finds a happy ending, in one of cinema’s most redemptive closing moments. Douglas was working at a difficult period for the British film industry and his uncompromising vision meant that he found the process of filmmaking, with its compromises and disappointments, ‘an agony’, according to his friend Peter Jewell.

Another aspect of his art, that provided a solace from the stresses of the film industry, was the collection of moving image artefacts that he assembled with Jewell. After his death this collection became the basis of The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, which is based at the University of Exeter This shows the depth of his fascination with cinema and the optical media that preceded it and is, as he wished, free and open to all so that they can experience the wonder of the image in the same way that he did. The earlier artefacts also play a role in Douglas’s only other film, his 1987 epic about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Comrades, which is available in this playlist. The cinema artefacts stand as a metaphor for new ways of seeing the world, just as the martyrs did at the beginning of Britain’s trade union movement.

This playlist gives a taste of this extraordinary filmmaker and his passion for the power of the image. It shows some contemporary documentary material on the making of the films and rare clips and interviews from the BBC Digital Archive. Some programmes feature the collection of artefacts which can be found at the museum, and include Peter Jewell talking about how they put it together. We hope you enjoy it.


Dr Phil Wickham, University of Exeter


  • Film Studies


film artists, moving image artefacts, cinema museums

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