Margaret Tait (1918-1999)
Portrait of Ga (1952)
Hugh MacDiarmid, A Portrait (1964)
Colour Poems (1974))
Place of Work (1976)
John Macfadyen (The Stripes in the Tartan) (1970)
Margaret Tait was one of Britain's most unique filmmakers. She studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome during the height of the neorealist movement, before returning to Scotland in the early 1950s and founding her own film company, Ancona Films. Over the course of 46 years she produced over 30 films including one feature, and published three books of poetry and two volumes of short stories, while living in between Orkney and Edinburgh.
Tait described her life's work as consisting of making film poems, and denied suggestions that they were documentaries or diary films. She often quoted Lorca's phrase of 'stalking the image' to define her philosophy and method, believing that if you look at an object closely enough it will speak its nature. This clarity of vision and purpose, with an attention to simple commonplace subjects, combined with a rare sense of inner rhythm and pattern, give her films a transcendental quality, while still remaining firmly rooted within the everyday. With characteristic modesty, Tait once said of her films, that they are born "of sheer wonder and astonishment at how much can be seen in any place that you choose...if you really look."
Born in 1918 in Kirkwall on Orkney, Scotland, Margaret Tait qualified in medicine at Edinburgh University 1941. From 1950 to 1952 she studied film at the Centro Sperimentale di Photographia in Rome.
Returning to Scotland she established Ancona Films in Edinburgh’s Rose Street. In the 1960’s Tait moved back to Orkney where over the following decades she made a series of films inspired by the Orcadian landscape and culture. All but three of her thirty two films were self financed. She wrote poetry and stories and produced several books including three books of poetry.
Screenings include National Film Theatre (London), Berlin Film Festival, Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Arsenal Kino (Berlin), Pacific Film Archives (San Francisco), Knokke le Zoute, Delhi and Riga. Tait was accorded a retrospective at the 1970 Edinburgh Film Festival and has been the subject of profiles on BBC and Channel Four.
The feature length Blue Black Permanent (1993) opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Her final film Garden Pieces was completed in 1998.
Margaret Tait died in Kirkwall in 1999.