Celebrating 60 years of universal human rights?
Scots Law News at last got invited to a film premiere on 28 June 2008 but it wasn't Stone of Destiny (see here) but rather The New Ten Commandments, a film marking from a Scottish perspective the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The film, which was shown at the Edinburgh Filmhouse as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is actually a collection of 10 shorts by different directors, each dealing with a particular human right. Some of the material would have been familiar to readers of Scots Law News: Jim Swire talking about the death of his daughter in the Lockerbie disaster, the contempt of court charges faced by Aameer Anwar (incidentally Scots Law News learned that the High Court will pronounce on the matter on 1 July), and, on an altogether lighter note illustrating the right to privacy (!), the case of the "cycle-sexualist".
There were also some characters completely new to Scots Law News, such as Peter Dow the self-styled National Standard Bearer who is in apparently solitary splendour campaigning for Scotland to become an independent socialist republic. He was shown protesting against the Queen opening the Scottish Parliament, standing alone with his banner in a police-guarded pen some hundreds of yards away from the building, while that fine body of men, the Royal Company of Archers, paraded before him with their bows and arrows. Mr Dow was a guest at the premiere along with Mr Anwar and other notables.
Altogether the film powerfully raises questions about what human rights actually mean in modern Scotland, it was by no means all negative. The fact that such a film can be made and shown to a large audience gathered on a reasonably sunny Saturday afternoon is surely a positive in itself. And there was a heartening section on local community support for asylum-seekers in Glasgow, as well as a nicely intimate piece in which Tilda Swinton explained to her 8-year-old son what people dreamed about before movies and film director Mark Cousins responded with a letter to his 8-year-old self in mid-1970s Belfast about the joy he would soon begin to discover through films and film-making.
For those who see the film and worry about the sheep that is the centre of the section on the right not to be tortured, the closing credits reassure you that no animal was harmed in the making of the piece. However, it made Scots Law News wonder more about the right not to have one's emotions manipulated by film-makers than about torture.
The day was pleasantly rounded off with a reception hosted by Edinburgh College of Art in its new Evolution House building in West Port. From the rooftop where the reception took place came the unexpected bonus of unusual views of the Castle (saving the regrettable presence of Argyll House just above eye level) and onwards to the Grassmarket and the Old Town. As our own tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we therefore offer some of our attempts to capture the scene by way of a mobile phone camera.