Ten great films funded through The National Lottery

This year, The National Lottery is 25 years old. Since the National Lottery's first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.

National Lottery players make a massive contribution to UK films and film culture each year. To celebrate its 25th birthday, we’re looking back over just ten 10 of the many great films that have received funding.

Over the last 25 years, National Lottery funding has not only made it possible to bring fantastic Scottish films and stories to the screen, it has has helped kickstart a number of successful careers both in front and behind the camera.

1. Sunshine on Leith

Based on the stage musical featuring songs by The ProclaimersSunshine on Leith follows the stories of Davy and Ally, who have to re-learn how to live life in Edinburgh after coming home from serving in Afghanistan. Both struggle to live a life outside the army and to deal with the everyday struggles of family, jobs and relationships.

Written by Stephen Greenhorn and directed by Dexter Fletcher, the film stars Kevin GuthrieGeorge McKayPeter Mullan and Freya MavorSunshine on Leith received National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

Peter Mullan stands up celebrating in a crowd in Sunshine on Leith

2. Wild Rose

Wild Rose, nominated for Screen International’s 2019 Best British Film of the Year, follows 23-year-old Rose-Lynn Harlan from Glasgow, who is bursting with raw talent, charisma and cheek. Fresh out of jail and with two kids to support, she is desperate to follow her dream of becoming a country singer in Nashville.

Written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom HarperWild Rose stars Jessie BuckleyJulie Walters, and James Harkness. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

Jessie Buckley sings into a microphone in Wild Rose

3. RUN

This year, RUN received its World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival. In the town of Fraserburgh, young men dream of escapism through late-night drag races. Finnie used to be one such lad, but now he works at the fish factory and it's his son's turn to dream and race. Until one night when Finnie steals the boy's car for one last joyride.

The film is written and directed by Scott Graham, starring Mark StanleyAmy Manson and Marli Siu. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

A close up still of Mark Stanley in RUN

4. Aquarela

International co-production Aquarela takes audiences on a deeply cinematic journey through the transformative beauty and raw power of water. Filmed at a rare 96 frames-per-second, the film is a visceral wake-up call that humans are no match for the sheer force and capricious will of Earth’s most precious element. The film received its World Premiere at Venice Film Festival 2018.

The film is written by Victor Kassakovsky and Aimara Reques, and directed by Victor Kassakovsky. Aquarela received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland, and the BFI Film Fund.

A man crouches in the distance on top of an icy surface in the documentary, Aquarela

5. Irene's Ghost

Documentary Irene's Ghost follows a son's search to find out about the mother he never knew. He breaks the silence and tracks down her friends and family to rebuild a picture of her. Using animation mixed with filmed footage, Irene's Ghost movingly rebuilds a lost life. The film premiered at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival and was nominated for the BIFA Discovery Awards 2018.

Irene’s Ghost is directed by Iain Cunningham. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland’s and the BFI Film Fund.A mother hugs her young son on a park bench in the documentary, Irene's Ghost

6. '71

’71 tells the story of a British soldier who becomes separated from his unit during a riot in Belfast at the height of the Troubles in 1971. The film had its World Premiere at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival in 2014.

Written by Gregory Burke and directed by Yann Demange’71 stars Jack O’ConnellRichard DormerSean HarriesSam Reid, and Jack Lowden. The film received National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

Jack O'Connell in '71

7. Sunset Song

Sunset Song is the story of a young woman's endurance against the hardships of rural Scottish life, based on the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. The film takes place during the early years of the twentieth century, with the conflicts and choices a young woman experiences reflecting the struggle between tradition and change.

Written and directed by Terence Davies, Sunset Song stars Agyness DeynPeter Mullan, and Kevin Guthrie. The film received National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

Agyness Deyn in Sunset Song


Two best friends in a small Scottish town in the summer of '94 head out for one last night together before life takes them in different directions. Going to an illegal rave, the boys’ journey into an underworld of anarchy, freedom and collision with the law as they share a night that they will never forget. BEATS premiered at the 2019 Glasgow Film Festival.

Written by Kieran Hurley and Brian Welsh, and directed by Brian Welsh, BEATS stars Lorn MacdonaldCristian OrtegaLaura FraserGemma McElhinney, and Rachel Jackson. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland and the BFI Film Fund.

A group of young people walk through a park in the film BEATS

9. Freedom Fields

Freedom Fields follows three women and their football team in post-revolution Libya, as the country descends into civil war and the utopian hopes of the Arab Spring begin to fade. Through the eyes of these accidental activists, we see the reality of a country in transition, where the personal stories of love and aspirations collide with history. A love letter to sisterhood and the power of the “team.” The film premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2018.

The documentary is written and directed by Naziha Arebi. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland.

A young girl kicks a football in Libya, in the documentary Freedom Fields

10. Last Breath

A deep sea diver is stranded on the seabed with five minutes of oxygen and no hope of rescue. With access to amazing archive, Last Breath is the story of one man's impossible fight for survival. The documentary premiered at the 2019 Glasgow Film Festival.

Last Breath is written and directed by Alex Parkinson and co-directed by Richard Da Costa. The film received National Lottery funding through Screen Scotland.

A diver's mask sits on a table in the interior of a ship

More about BFI

The BFI Film Fund invests over £50 million of National Lottery funding a year into developing and supporting filmmakers with diverse, bold and distinctive films, that have a cultural relevance or progressive ideas, and which reflect people from different backgrounds, as well as a range of activities to increase the opportunities for audiences to enjoy them.

Upcoming titles include Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe which both premiered in Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where the latter was awarded the Best Actress prize for Emily Beecham; Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Scheme Birds from directors Ellen Fiske and Ellinor Hallin; and Saint Maud, the debut feature from Rose Glass, and Rocks from award-winning director Sarah Gavron and producer Faye Ward, which both premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Recent titles include Oscar and BAFTA-nominated Cold War which brought Pawel Pawlikowski the Best Director award at last year’s Cannes; Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, winner of the World Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival; Dirty God from Berlin Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize winner Sacha Polak; Claire Denis’ English language debut High Life and Locarno Film Festival Special Jury Prize and BIFA Best Debut Director award-winner Ray & Liz by filmmaker Richard Billingham.

Currently in prep, production or post are Chasing Chaplin from three-time BAFTA nominees Peter Middleton and James Spinney; Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha Raw and Jessie Buckley; Ammonite, directed by Francis Lee starring Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet; Jessica Swale’s Summerland starring Gemma Arterton and Gugu Mbatha-Raw; and Herself directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Clare Dunne.

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

  • Curates and presents the greatest international public programme of world cinema for audiences; in cinemas, at festivals and online
  • Cares for the BFI National Archive – the most significant film and television archive in the world
  • Actively seeks out and supports the next generation of filmmakers investing National Lottery money into development, production, distribution, sales, export, film heritage and education
  • Works with Government and industry to make the UK the most creatively exciting and prosperous place to make film internationally

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter. The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

More about Screen Scotland

Screen Scotland is leading the growth of the sector through increased funding and support for film and television production, an increase in specialist staff and further investment in skills, festivals, audiences and education. Screen Scotland sits within Creative Scotland and is a partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council, with funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery.

This article was published on 23 Oct 2019