Glasgow Film Festival 2011 going from strength to strength


By Lindsay A. McGee

At only seven years old, Glasgow Film Festival which launches tonight is offering a programme of screenings and events the range and breadth of which is already comparable to Scotland’s other foremost film festival, the 65 year old granddaddy Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Running from 17-27 February GFF 2011 is a bright young thing which boasts all the trappings of a major film festival; premieres, galas, red carpet action and A-list visitors such as Mark Millar, Ken Loach, Richard Ayoade, Shirley Henderson.  Many more names in film, past and present, are confirmed.

It does keep its feet plunked firmly on the ground however with events such as moviemaking workshops for kids and a debate on whether or not filmmaking is a white, middle-class career choice. (If the BAFTAs on Sunday was any indicator, then that might be a resounding yes!)

Moving on, there seems to be something for everyone.  This year there’s an expanded programme of 12 main strands each of which contains a heady mix of old classics and new releases with a true international flavour: Scottish, British, European, Bollywood to Hollywood, to US Indie and back home again via East Germany during the ‘Stasi’ times under censorship.  

Closer to home is ‘Ceol’s Craic’ a day of films (Sat 26 February) about Gaelic and other indigenous cultures.  The strand will premier the new Scottish documentary ‘The Guga Hunters of Ness’ which follows the annual tradition of men from the Isle of Lewis in their two week intensive hunt for Gannets or guga in Gaelic.  Another highlight of the day is likely to be the ‘FilmG’ Gaelic short film showcase with the film-makers and FilmG enagaging in what is likely to be a lively bilingual Q&A session.

Back to Hollywood now and time to mention that the retrospective this year is on Meryl Streep.  If you’ve ever watched TV then you’ve probably seen all the films on offer which includes ‘The Deer Hunter’ 1978 and ‘Kramer Vs. Kramer’ 1979.  However, have you ever had the pleasure of watching these classics on the big screen?  And if you already have, isn’t it time you did again?

Continuing in the retrospective vein there’s also a Ginger Rogers selection.  Yes, Ginger Rogers.  Not the big lugged guy who was her dance partner.  Another strand, ‘Out of the Past’, is a selection of older classic films which have all been re-booted and re-released in time for 60th anniversaries, as is the case with ‘The African Queen’ 1951, with previously unseen footage or digital restoration.  

Interestingly, the Festival is home to several smaller two day festivals which operate within the main programme.  The first of these is the Glasgow Youth Film Festival (11-20 February) which primarily offers a selection of screenings programmed by 15-18 year olds plus special events for children and young people.  No longer any excuse for bored teens to be flopping about the house at the weekend with ‘nothing to do’.

Glasgow Short Film Festival is one of GFF’s ‘film festivals within a festival’ and runs 18-20 February.  It screens an impressive 46 films from Scotland to Syria, across eight competition segments.  Plus there are special events, workshops and of course, parties.

GSFF also boasts its own award, the aptly titled ‘GSFF Short Film Award’ which is in its second year and is tasked with the difficult job of championing the ‘most innovative and outstanding work in the programme’.  Not to be missed by movie buffs and budding film-makers alike.

Genre fans are already showing their love for GFF’s other ‘film fest within a fest’ – the Frightfest (25-26 February).  Five of the eight movies screening have sold out.  Still, three to go and who could resist a horror film festival, all on its own, in a flannelette nightie, in the middle of a dark forest, with something hungry chasing it.

Glasgow Film Festival rightly continues its flirtation with the fashion and music world by offering a third ‘mini’ festival – the Glasgow Music and Film Festival.  This is slightly different as it runs in conjunction with the main fest and comprises music related films and live gigs and events.

The most unusual of these is ‘Wet Sounds’ at North Woodside Leisure whose title conjures something dodgy, I know not what, but whose description conjures the miraculous – swim in the pool whilst listening to live music both above and below the water.  Try it if you dare!

Fashion-wise we have the eclectic Glaswegian fashion designer-musician Pam Hogg presenting a screening of her work, plus a Q&A.  There’s also a documentary called ‘Vidal Sassoon: The Movie’ – need I say more?  Plus a small but vital array of screenings and events.  Let’s hope this strand burgeon may into its own festival one day.

For the voyeurs among us, fear not.  There is a documentary strand which offers a programme of screenings a little more challenging than than the current crop of ‘personal journeys’ available on TV which can involve, for example, nothing more than staring for 45 mins at a very fat man as he tries to become less fat.

The documentary strand ‘Stranger than Fiction’ thankfully offers more scope than this, such as a film about the life of Norman Mailer and a Werner Herzog nature piece in 3D ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’.

There is also the fascinating sounding story of ‘Marwencol’ about a man who is recovering from serious head injuries and has to learn to walk and talk again.  In doing so, he builds a 1/6 scale model of a town from the Second World War era which he names ‘Marwencol’ and populates with dolls to represent his family and friends and relate the history of the town.

GFF also has a growing crop of events and workshops aimed at those working within the film industry and at students hoping to break into the profession.  It’s not on a par with EIFF in terms of running a full industry programme alongside the listings for the movie-going public but maybe it will develop this in years to come.

You never know, pop along to events such as ‘Story design in the Short Fiction Film’ (Sat 19 February) and you may discover your inner storyteller who has just been waiting for the right moment to be discovered.

Glasgow Film Festival 2011 (17-27 February) full programme of screenings, information, tickets and more can be found at:

GFF box office where you can pick up the full programme brochure and buy tickets in person is located at the Glasgow Film Theatre, 12 Rose Street Glasgow.
Box Office tel: 0141 332 6535.