Transport / Filmmaker defends NorthLink documentary

Some locals felt the film was too ‘tabloid’ in its approach.

NorthLink's passenger ferry Hrossey arriving in Lerwick. Photo: Austin taylor

THE DIRECTOR of a new documentary about the ferry trip between Aberdeen and Shetland has defended the film after it was criticised locally for unfairly portraying the journey in a “sensationalist” and negative way.

Duncan Cowles’ All Aboard was shown on STV last week, but many local people took to social media afterwards to criticise it for being an unbalanced account of a trip on the NorthLink boat.

The documentary on the ferry was dubbed by STV as a “unique insight into life onboard the MV Hrossey, seen through the eyes of the crew and passengers who travel on it”.

Among the topics discussed in interviews with staff and travellers were drinkers in the bar, policing unruly passengers and incidents where someone has gone overboard.

There were mentions, however, of the boat being a better travel experience than the plane and some of the striking views from the deck, for example – but many felt the positives were overshadowed.

Responding to the criticism to Shetland News, Scottish BAFTA-winning Cowles said that it had not been his intention to paint the route – which for most people is an uneventful 12-hour overnight journey – in a bad light.

“It saddens me to hear that some people found the film to portray the journey in a negative or sensationalist way,” he said.

“This was never my intention, and apologies to anyone who felt the film did the journey a disservice. All the crew and passengers we filmed with were brilliant and I was honoured to meet and work with them.

“It’s upsetting for me to hear that some people think the film was trying to put them off taking the boat. I’d encourage exactly the opposite – the ferry was a great way to travel to and visit the beautiful Shetland Islands.”

Chairman of Shetland’s external transport forum councillor Ryan Thomson was one of those left unsure about the documentary after tuning in.

“I think a great opportunity was missed to show what excellent work the staff behind the scenes and on the frontline at NorthLink does, and I don’t feel it was in any way reflective of the vast majority of journeys which take place on our lifeline service,” he said.

However, there were some locals who took to social media to stick up for the documentary, saying it was a detour from the “usual PR fluff”.

Watch All Onboard on the STV Player here.