It's getting increasingly difficult to pin down the real launch date of the Glasgow Film Festival. This year, not only did the Youth Festival run before the main event, the Short Film Festival also had a weekend of its own beforehand. Both were hugely successful. Highlights of the former included the UK premiere of The Muppets (introduced with a special message from Kermit and Miss Piggy), American high school drama with a difference Terri, and Simple Simon, the story of a teenager with Aspergers' who sets out to find the perfect girlfriend for his brother. The organisers really threw themselves into it with lots of dressing up and inventive introductions, and there were opportunities for other young people to get involved with workshops on things like film directing and poster design. There was also a spectacular theatrical production of animated French hit Belleville Rendez-Vous.
As usual, Eye For Film's Andrew Robertson immersed himself in the Short Film Festival, and we'll be continuing to bring you his reviews over the next few weeks. His favourite was Decapoda Shock, the somewhat unlikely tale of an astronaut who is transformed into a lobster-like creature hell bent on seeking revenge, but there was also more conventional fare on offer, from award-winning documentary Fini about a filmmaker's father's experience with Alzheimer's to Pitch Black Heist, in which Michael Fassbender plays a man trying to break into a safe with a light-sensitive alarm. Many of the filmmakers attended the festival in person to see their work screened.
The festival proper launched last night with the UK premiere of Sundance hit Your Sister's Sister, a comedy about family and friendship that had the audience rolling with laughter (though the champagne may also have helped). The gala event was introduced by festival directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter, with speech from baillie Liz Cameron, who remarked on what an exciting year it has been for film fans in Glasgow – from the apocalyptic romance of Perfect Sense to the devastation of World War Z (in which you will, briefly, be able to see Eye For Film stalwart and official festival photographer Stuart Crawford fleeing alongside Brad Pitt). She had walked into the City Chambers, she said, to find herself surrounded by undead - “So no change there.” Creative Scotland also addressed the packed auditorium, talking about how this is a special year for them, when they hope to boost arts projects across the country – including film – with a particular focus on new talent.
After the screening, director Lynn Shelton, who had flown in all the way from Seattle, took questions from the audience. Shallow Grave star Kerry Fox had several but nothing could compete with the seven minute gender studies thesis masquerading as a quick question that one fan, delivered towards the end. Shelton kindly agreed to meet him in the bar later to answer it in full. She was delighted by the reception her film received and keen to talk for longer, but the auditorium had to be cleared in order to make way for a band and the DJ set to follow it. Fortunately there were several bars for guests to retreat to, all offering free drinks from the festival sponsors alongside some delicious canapés. Innis & Gunn beer and Sailor Jerry rum were great choices and proved popular all round. There were also shots of anCnoc whisky, perhaps not the wisest idea after a film that includes quite a bit of shot slamming, even if it does contain something of a warning about the risks of careless drinking.
Also downstairs was a free photo booth set up by sponsors Look & Look, which various guests had fun posing in. Some of the usual celebrity attendees were notable by their absence but autograph hunters queueing outside were excited to catch Gangs Of New York and Neds star Gary Lewis. I sat in Café Cosmo with former Eye For Film writer and Short Film Festival jury co-ordinator Neil Chue Hong, discussing short films and what's worth keeping an eye out for at the festival. This year's is a particularly strong selection and there are also set to be a great many special guests, so keep watching this space for interviews and features.
The official closing time for the party was at 1am. I left just before that but it was clear that quite a few people were planning to keep on going until well into the night. Outside, a brisk wind promised rain, but there were still stars shining ahead of what looks set to be a star-studded week.