Where You’re Meant To Be is young Scottish director Paul Fegan’s feature length debut and follows his impressive 2012 short film “Pouters”. It documents Aidan Moffat’s (of Arab Strap) 2014 Scottish tour of the same name featuring re-workings of traditional folk songs into modern, contemporary settings.
Moffat, who has been a prominent feature of the UK’s (but especially Scotland’s) music scene for around 20 years from the Britpop era, is renowned for his cynical, witty and observational indie music. However, his music is notable for its storytelling. Much like traditional folk songs and ballads, his desire to relocate the often historical, countryside evoking music to his self-proclaimed “experiences of the city, interested in the present and future”, is a natural fit.
Not everyone shares this view, however, as before embarking on the tour, Moffat meets with Scottish folk music legend and 70s TV personality Sheila Stewart. Stewart is the living embodiment of traditional folk music; the descendent of a travelling Scottish family who have passed these songs down the generations, of which she is the final branch. Understandably she is fairly protective of her family’s songs, and in meeting Moffat (in a fairly hilarious scene driving around her community) is “disgusted” by his “disrespecting” of the songs by modernising them, telling him he should “learn his history”.
Moffat is initially out of his depth in these reworkings, as while he doesn’t wish to be disrespectful towards the great Stewart family – nor a largely bygone era of Scotland – he makes it clear “it is the madness of today I am interested in” with Fegan using voice-over narration of Moffat’s considerations. Fegan consistently uses Moffat’s internal monologue as the narration of the film, posing the film as a spoken-word ballad to Stewart, Scotland and music in general, often edited over sweeping shots of the stunning Scottish countryside or chaotic cities, contemporizing the folkloric nature of the songs.
While Moffat initially receives a frosty response from his audiences, he becomes more comfortable performing the songs as he and his merry band meet a myriad of characters across the various small corners of Scotland. The film poses an interesting question about the role of the singer as an artist. Moffat muses as to why he should or shouldn’t be able to make the songs his own, especially handed-down folk songs when so much “original” music has traceable sources of inspiration often to the disregard of the old guard.
Overwhelmingly, the message that the film concludes with is about “music bringing people together.” Fegan and Moffat use an example of a dispute over a hoax sighting of the Loch Ness Monster between two enthusiasts to show how they, after attending Moffat’s concert, can be brought together once again on talking terms after years of silly turmoil. As the film progresses we see how music touches everyone who features in the film in some way and in this case especially within both rural and later cosmopolitan Scotland.
When the tour and film reaches its denouement with a performance at the world famous Barrowlands hall in Glasgow, we see the people we’ve met over the course of the documentary all reacting to the music, both enjoying themselves and being emotionally moved. As throughout the film Moffat considers Stewart’s thoughts and feelings about the music, her final public performance before her death of “The Parting Song” it is a truly captivating moment, showing the power and influence of music and of performers of hers and Moffat’s stature.
Where You’re Meant To Be is out now through DocHouse. Visit their site for more screening info.