“Kiss The Water” is a documentary that functions much like a mystery. We never see the subject of this documentary, except of a fleeting view of archival footage at the end which helps to obscure rather than reveal. Most fitting for such an enigmatic character. The filmmaker, Eric Steel, begins by telling us about one of his daily habits, that of reading The New York Times obituaries looking for inspiration from life stories. About ten years ago, he caught a particularly interesting prospect: It was for a December 11, 2001 obit entitled, “Megan Boyd, Eccentric Master of Fish Flies, Dies at 86.” The article sounded pretty intriguing, beginning with the word, “eccentric.” It is the eccentrics of the world who get things done.
And so a documentary came to life. It is made up of a series of reminiscences by those who knew Megan Boyd and intertwined with haunting animation, led by Em Cooper. Add to this the lingering cinematography of Ole Bratt Birkeland and the brooding score by Paul Cantelon, and it all conspires to transport you to a lonely but beguiling patch of land and sea at the end of the world, Brura, Scotland, to be precise.
It was in 1931, in a little cottage in nothern Scotland, that 16-year-old Megan Boyd first learned how to make fishing flies. She found them to be pretty. What the documentary sheds light on and leaves in the shadows adds up to portrait of an artist and her world. And the prime focus in that region is salmon. It’s just the place to go and spend one’s life in the contemplative sport of fishing. “Why does a salmon take a fly?” The question is often asked in this documentary and we find it to be impossible to answer. For one thing, salmon returning to fresh water do not feed but are there for only one reason, to spawn. The truth is that Megan knew what it took to make flies that caught fish. She knew the flies were not meant for the fish but for those who fished. It was meant to compliment such rituals as letting the line “kiss the water” for a second before it was cast forward. Perhaps a serene fisher would be a successful one.
In the course of her life, Boyd’s love of fishing flies turned into a thriving business with her flies being the most saught after. Word spread and she developed a following far beyond her home. Her fame would reach all the way to Buckingham Palace. She would have the unique priviledge of hosting Prince Charles in her little ramshackle cottage. She would be awarded a major honor, something called the British Empire Medal, by Queen Elizabeth. But through it all, her tastes and wants remained simple. She loved to create fishing flies but her artistry turned her devotion into something she could never have imagined. The legend and the fishing flies would live on, even though they were never intended to endure, to be framed and hung in museums. Among the colorful assortment, there is the Blue Doctor, the Sutherland, the Snow Fly, and the Megan Boyd.
“Kiss The Water” will recieve its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Arpil 22, at 7:00pm. If you’re in the New York City area, and especially if you’re there for the festival, you’ll want to make sure to catch this one. Find program details here.