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Scottish cyclist's epic 1950s Arctic journey hits big screen

Scottish cyclist's epic 1950s Arctic journey hits big screen

Matt Hulse is passionate about film-making and charting the extraordinary stories of ordinary men and women.

He's a director with the belief that genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains, and if that means spending many years on a particular project, so be it.

Since the dawn of the new millennium, Hulse has been involved with Dummy Jim; his true-life account of how James Duthie climbed on his bike at home in Cairnbulg, near Fraserburgh, and cycled into the frozen Arctic Circle in 1951.

The critics have been generous in their praise for the 85-minute work, which was nominated for the Edinburgh Film Festival's Michael Powell award.

But, until now, his labours had gone largely unnoticed in Scotland, despite Hulse shooting plenty of footage in the north-east of the country.

Finally, though, Dummy Jim is coming home, during an extensive tour, which starts in Glasgow on July 6 and takes in such places as Inverness, Wick, Portsoy and Banchory, before a screening in Edinburgh on July 17.

Duthie kept a detailed journal of his marathon voyage and meticulously chronicled his myriad experiences. His original intention was to set off for Morocco.

But, as the trailer for the film points out, he never made it.

Instead, a much more dramatic scenario unfolded as the deaf Buchan cyclist entered a completely different world from anything he had experienced before.

"He was one of those adventurous souls who was very curious, very determined, and never let anything get in his way, and that was inspiring," said Hulse.

"When you think that he was profoundly deaf and growing up in a small community in the 1930s and 1940s, this must have been a huge step for him to take.

"But, although things didn't always go to plan and he faced difficulties, I like the idea of this wonky cyclist persevering and doing things his way."

  (Matt Hulse)
via STV via STV

Hulse has encountered similar challenges in his attempt to bring Dummy Jim to life on the big screen. Yet, all his frustrations and privations have eventually paid dividends in a work which is quintessentially Scottish.

As time passed, he occasionally feared it might never happen. But he ploughed on.

"I never remotely imagined it would take 13-years to reach this stage, and I suppose there was something bloody-minded about it," he told STV.

"There was a point, halfway through the production, where even my family stopped asking about Jimmy Duthie. It was a wee bit embarrassing to mention it.

"But this hasn't been about me, it has been a collaborative effort, and I've been supported by Film Hub Scotland, the Saltire Society, and by other organisations.

"And now, as you might guess, I'm looking forward to bringing Dummy Jim home."

The tour, which commences at Glasgow Film Theatre, should present myriad moments to savour for Hulse and his star, Samuel Dore, who is himself deaf.

They and their colleagues have created something genuinely original, innovative and only ever-so-slightly bonkers in the grand tradition of British eccentrics.

"The film has had a very positive reaction from audiences and that has been one of the best things about it," said Hulse.

"We didn't just want to make something for ourselves, or a small group of critics, but something the deaf community, the cycling community... as many people as possible would appreciate.

"We'll have to wait and see how it is received in Scotland. But I've always wanted this to be accessible and Jimmy Duthie was a true one-off."

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