The Films of Scotland Documentaries
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An Ancient Nation

"A Stern and Hardy Race"

Transformation and Continuity

The Discourse of Nationhood


The Face of Scotland extract
The final football crowd sequence from The Face of Scotland.

The Face of Scotland

The Discourse of Nationhood

The Face of Scotland ends with the following passage:

"Whatever the future holds, Scotland may face it boldly, for her greatest asset is to be reckoned not in terms of money in banks, or capital investments in planted machinery, but in the character of her people.

So today, in the roar of a Glasgow football crowd, you may well observe the vigour and the enthusiasm, the ambition and the incomparable determination of the Scottish race.

Today they are the same people of whom, nearly five hundred years ago, the historian Holinshed spoke:

'There unto, we find them to be courageous and hardy, offering themselves often unto the uttermost perils with great assurance. So that a man may pronounce nothing to be over-hard or past their power to perform.'" (The Face of Scotland)

Framed within two symbols of nationhood, the Scottish flag and Edinburgh castle, are twenty three shots of a football match. Sporting contests are often a key space for articulations of cultural identity, and this is particularly true of Scotland and football (cf. Moorhouse, 1989; Giulianotti, 1993).

The Face of Scotland
Stills (above and below) from The Face of Scotland's final sequence.

But the focus of the camera's interest is not the match itself, it is seen only four times, and only local knowledge allows identification of the teams as they are not specified in the narration. The focus of the camera is the crowd, shot the majority of the time in close up, because, as the narration explicitly states, in the crowd can be seen the 'character' 'of the Scottish race'. This, finally, is 'The Face of Scotland'.

National identity, within the discourse of nationhood of the 1930s, is simultaeneously biological and cultural. This blood and soil conception of identity would rightly be criticised today, an example of the ethnic absolutism that is part of a politics of exclusion and belonging (c.f. Gilroy, 1987). But in the international climate of the late 1930s, the construction of a coherent national identity, and moreover an identity characterised by hardiness and determination, was seen to serve the Films of Scotland Committee's objective of making documentaries that served the 'national interest'.

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Author: Richard Butt Images are drawn from the SCRAN database.