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Scotland encounter is eye-opener for Stout, UWRF students

Claire Quade (left) wears a mask that was used in the documentary “Natan” by filmmaker David Cairns (center). At right is Bridget Macomber, a UW-River Falls student. Cairns visited the students’ Wisconsin in Scotland summer film studies course. (Submitted photo.)

DALKEITH, Scotland -- Claire Quade’s summer in Scotland didn’t go quite the way she planned. It went even better.

“I never thought while studying abroad I would meet a Scottish director, actor and filmmaker,” said the Honors College student from UW-Stout. “It was an amazing opportunity to meet David Cairns and watch his film ‘Natan.’”

Enrolled in a three-week film studies course offered by the Wisconsin in Scotland program, Quade met Cairns when the filmmaker visited her class.

The educational opportunity was organized by another UW-Stout representative, Joan Navarre, associate professor in the department of English and philosophy, who taught the course.

Cairns discussed his documentary about Bernard Natan (1886-1942), one of the giants of French cinema whose contributions to the film industry have been nearly forgotten. In addition to meeting the filmmaker and being among the first Americans to watch the film, the students learned about the importance of research in making a documentary.

Bridget Macomber, a student in the class from UW-River Falls, commented:  “‘Natan’ opened my eyes to the fact that there are more people out in the world that had a big influence on movies, yet they have been forgotten or have been forced to be forgotten.”

In addition to meeting Cairns and learning about “Natan,” students discussed the importance of original research.

“Most of the research that informs ‘Natan’ was uncovered in archives,” said Navarre. “Original research often requires hard work, patience and the ability to look beyond the Internet.”

Cairns, who traveled to France to research in archives there, also contacted family members and conducted interviews.

“I had no idea that the researching and filming process for a documentary could be so vigorous when producing a film,” said Quade, who is from Mount Horeb.

Quade is a member of the Honors College at UW-Stout and president of the school’s Honors College Student Council. She is scheduled to present research at the national honors conference in November in New Orleans.

The students in Scotland had many questions, and Cairns was pleased to address them.

“It was a pleasure to talk to students after a screening of the film,” the Scottish documentarian acknowledged. “Because the story is controversial and there are areas where the precise facts may never be known, it's fun to go over the story and debate the possibilities. The students were bright and eager, and I had a great time talking to them."

“Natan” is scheduled to make its American premiere this fall.

The Wisconsin in Scotland program is held at Dalkeith House, near Edinburgh. For more information go to