This documentary records one Glaswegian man’s move to Australia in 1970.
I texted my friends to watch Yer Old Faither when I was only halfway through, and having finished it, I would definitely recommend it to everyone. I was keen to watch it just from the name, as a Glaswegian I couldn’t help but read it in my own dad’s voice, and the description on Glasgow Film Festival’s website really sold it to me. It is a heartwarming blend of home videos, interviews, hilarious letters, and beautiful animations which tell the life of John Croall, who moved from Glasgow to Australia in 1970.
As much as I do love Scotland, John’s decision to move based on the promise of sun is pretty understandable (and quite tempting right now), and his letters to and from Glasgow are a fascinating insight into the lives of the thousands of Scots who emigrated at this time. We see the adverts and leaflets that encouraged Scots to make the move, and seeing the sunny coasts at the beginning further justify this decision. I wish I could visit Australia for a tenner now.
Director Heather Croall isn’t just telling the story of Scottish emigration, but of her extraordinary father: a renowned obstetrician, advocate for his town, and a hilarious, green-fingered father. Clearly the one thing he missed were all the trees here, and so he planted thousands nearby in Australia, and saplings in random cans decorate the entire garden. This, and his amusing frugal habits, again reminded me of my own old faither. These are the quirks I picked up on, but John’s Scottish songs and distinctive Glaswegian humour will likely be nostalgic for many of us, and the general dad jokes and the relationship between John and his daughters will be recognisable worldwide.
The way the film is edited creates a lovely story out of the material shot over years by Croall, and is perfectly paced. The film is emotional, yet hilarious, and by the end you really feel a connection to this man you’ve never met, in a town you’ve never visited, with the animations really helping bring his letters and anecdotes to life. It is heartwarming to realise the effect one person can have on the lives of so many, and the wide-reaching, positive impact humour and kindness have.
Heather Croall said that the film was an exploration of the relationship between fathers and daughters, which I felt really came across. John epitomises the humorous, slightly embarrassing Scottish father, while also demonstrating how important they are as role models. It reminded me of Trouble by Mariah Garnett, which I enjoyed at the Document Film Festival. The film follows Mariah, raised in America, reconnecting with her father and tracing his roots in Northern Ireland, and I would also recommend it. It is lovely to see such personal documentaries revealing the amazing lives and impacts of individuals, a format which is undoubtedly touching and stays with you.
This documentary felt quite unique to me, though. It paints such a loving portrait of John, and the animation adds such a lovely flair. The mix of old and new footage in a variety of formats, and the actors’ readings of the letters, added to the intimacy and familiarity I felt watching this film. I spent a good while looking into Scottish emigration prompted by Heather’s fantastic use of archive footage.
It is perfect timing for this film’s UK premiere, when many of us are separated from our own parents, families, and loved ones. The sunny shots of a happy family helped remind me what we have to look forward to when we can all meet up again, and the importance of staying connected to family and friends while apart. Heather moved back to be with her father for this documentary to help her mother care for him, and it is a truly touching tale of the love between her and John. This is definitely a great film to catch at the festival this year, and very hard to fault.Yer Old Faither is showing at Glasgow Film Festival from 6 March.