Scottish Documentary Film Institute

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Scottish Documentary Film Institute logo, circa 1997

Founded in 1996, The Scottish Documentary Film Institute (SDFI) explores the fringes of artistic experience, using documentary to film to represent artistic narratives, often focusing on the question as to the utility of art in modern life.


Questions persist as to the validity of eariler iterations of the Scottish Documentary Film Institute, as far back as 1982. Current members of the Institute have however stated that these iterations were not representative of the Institute's final decided output, although the 1996 iteration, which has been traditionally considered as one of the most successful, has been acknowledged by many as being not the original formation of the Institute, but nonetheless a standard and representative iteration of what the SDFI hoped to eventually become.

Art as Considered by the SDFI

For art to be realised, the Scottish Documentary Film Institute have argued that large tranches of funding must be first awarded to artists regardless of whether they merit it. This merit is to be first judged by arbiters and once the arbitration is complete, the results are to be destroyed, unseen and uncollated.

Once money has been isued on this basis, the Institute argue, it will then be spent on projects of the artists' device, and the final results are to be shared, showing first how artists are employed, and in an object lesson and in the format of digital film, it shall then be argued, argue the SDFI, that art is in fact a drain.

This was the theme of the Institute's 2016 Spiral Films, which each cost £17,700 of public money. The first spiral film to be released was withdrawn by the Institute after public complaint, at which point they made the video SDFI Spiral #2 fully public, as it is displayed below.

Early Work

Although the Institute did not officially exist until 2016, its principal operatives had been working for many years in the field, and in remote areas of Scotland.

One early production attributed to the members of the Institute was of supposed UFO footage.

This Clip shows work from Institute members excerpted from 'Utility Funded Science Project Spending Success Outcome'

SDFI Praxis Spirals and Utility Funding Projects

SDFI Spiral #2 released in August 2016 is revealing in that it shows the working practises of the Scottish Documentary Film Institute. The film was believed to have been shot in the Strathcarron area of Scotland, although the Institute have neither confirmed nor denied this.

Critics of SDFI Spiral #2 have argued that given the production values, and with an understanding of the Institute's working peaxis, the budget for this one minute film probably exceded £20,000, which is more than the Institute claim.[1]

Footage from SDFI Spiral #2 and Utility Funded Arts EIF16 #1 now follows:

This Clip is Excerpted from the SDFI 2016 'Utility Funded Arts Spending Spiral Project'
This Clip is Excerpted from the SDFI 2016 'Utility Funded Arts at Edinburgh International Festival Frame #1 2016'
  1. "Are the Scottish Documentary Film Institute Cheating Us?". The Internet. 7 August 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2014.