Mum’s Birthday is an award-winning troubling, moving, life-affirming movie, made in Edinburgh by local talent and now short-listed for a further major international award.  Written and directed by Graham Fitzpatrick and produced by Sarah Drummond at Pilton Video, this short (38 minutes) film tells the story of single-parent, Alex (Elek Kish), and his son, Stephen (Chris Robertson). Fitzpatrick’s script was drawn from his own experience of losing a partner to cancer, while it also touches on aspects of life for many young people in Edinburgh who have grown up away from their parents or in housing schemes.
Alex, the lone single-father, stumbles inexpertly through the single-parent world numerically dominated as it is by mothers.  He is also lost in his relationship with his son.  His intervention to save his son from bullying at school only exacerbates the difficulties Stephen faces.
The tensions around Stephen’s insistent requests to “visit his mum” accumulate and flash-backs to his mother’s departure fail to enlighten the viewer.  The mystery behind the conflict between father and son remains unexplained until almost the final shots and several red-herrings send the viewer scurrying for explanations which subsequently evaporate.
This is a film about loss, about growing up, about grief, about violence but it is also about love, kindness, reconciliation, the bonds of family and the power of friendship.  Filmed entirely inEdinburgh– in Muirhouse, Craigmillar, Trinity and Granton – the harrowing reality of young Stephen’s experiences flow however not from the settings but from a tight story and fine acting.ElekKishhas won the Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival best actor award for his portrayal of troubled father, Alex.  Veteran Scots actor, Tam Dean Burn, turns in a strong performance as the rock-like grandfather.
The mature and measured performances however of the two main teenage actors, former Balerno High School pupil, Chris Robertson, as Stephen, and former Castlebrae High School pupil, Ashleigh Shepherd as Chelsea, Stephen’s one seeming friend, steal the show.  That verdict is confirmed when it is realised that both these first-time performing actors have been resident in local authority care homes.  Chris won the Young Scot Entertainment Award for his part in the film.   Perhaps the fact that these two young people have not had their own troubles to seek gave them particular insights in playing these challenging parts.
As well as Elek Kish’s award, Sarah Drummond won the best producer’s prize at the BAFTA Scotland New Talent Awards, and Chris Robertson won the Entertainment Award at the Young Scot Awards.  The delightful aspect of the prize for which Mum’s Birthday has now been nominated, in the Drama category of the Skillet International Film Contest, is that the entire move is now available on-line at  http://www.filmskillet.com/films/201 .
Graham Fitzpatrick, the Writer/Director has been delighted with the film and the awards it has gathered: ‘It was undoubtedly the most positive and rewarding film I’ve ever done, with the young people at the heart of it, creating an intense and moving piece. Chris and Ashleigh were a great find and a joy to work with, both bringing great depth and truth to the characters of Stephen and Chelsea. Mum’s Birthdaymeans a lot to everyone involved and came from the heart, with theHollywood screening and awards the real icing on the cake.’
The above article was first published in Lothian Life on 9 August 2012: http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2012/08/mums-birthday/

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