Going out with a bang

GFF days 10 & 11: Joss Whedon, Eli Roth, Joan Of Arc and a shot to the heart.

by Jennie Kermode

It's no secret that, by the closing weekend of the Glasgow Film Festival, everybody is beginning to flag, but this year more than ever it was worth saving some energy, as some of the very best was saved till last. From a fantastic final day of Frightfest to a geektastic appearance by Joss Whedon, the festival went out in style.

Eli Roth at Aftershock. Photo by Eoin Carey.
Eli Roth at Aftershock. Photo by Eoin Carey. Photo: Eoin Carey

Let's start with the scary stuff. Saturday opened with a screening of sumptuous Mario Bava triptych Black Sabbath and then launched into full-on exploitation fun with Bring Me The Head Of The Machine Gun Woman. Eli Roth, Nicolas Lopez and Lorenza Izzo attended the première of subterranean terrorfest Aftershock and 26 different ways to die were explored in The ABCs Of Death. As on the previous day, Frightfest was sold out, but events sometimes spilled over into the rest of the GFT building and the excitement of fans was palpable.

Things got physical for those who were brave enough during a demonstration of action special effects work in the movies, with three audience volunteers stepping up to be shot. Others went home looking as if they'd been through worse after having artificial wounds applied to them by an expert make-up effects crew. For those who preferred a less scary form of participation event, there was a treasure hunt leading its participants on a journey around the city's historical cinematic venues.

Highlights of the day's non-horror screenings included Gangs Of Wasseypur parts one and two, and a documentary celebrating gay film critic and activist Vito. There was also a chance to see Banaz: A Love Story, the heartbreaking tale of an Iraqi Kurdish immigrant killed by her family for rejecting its traditions; and children of all ages could enjoy a rare screening of Disney's Peter Pan.

The death of Ray Cusick, the man who designed the daleks, brought a sad note to the day's anniversary Doctor Who screenings, but we're sure he would have been cheered to see fans crowding into Cineworld for Doctor Who And The Daleks and Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.. The Doctor Who events have been one of the most successful parts of the festival.

For those not staying up to watch late night horror, Saturday was rounded off with a spectacular screening of celebrated classic The Passion Of Joan Of Arc in Glasgow Cathedral, one of the city's most beautful buildings. A live score by Irene Buckley combined the cathedral organ with soprano and electronica to create a truly atmospheric experience.

Joss Whedon on the red carpet. Photo by Stuart Crawford.
Joss Whedon on the red carpet. Photo by Stuart Crawford. Photo: Stuart Crawford

Sunday's popular screenings included Robot And Frank and The Place Beyond The Pines, but it was in the evening that things really came to a head, with the gala première of Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing. Made in his back garden with a group of friends, this intimate little film revealed remarkable confidence in a director best known for his science fiction work. His genuine passion for Shakespeare was clearly in evidence in the discussions that followed, and he said that if he were ever to adapt another of the Bard's plays it would be Hamlet, as he finds he can really relate to the conflicted Danish Prince. Asked about his tendency to kill off beloved characters, he shrugged and said simply "I don't try to avoid the whole death thing" - then, looking at the audience - "and neither will any of you."

The screening took place a little later than usual because, though the cinema was full, there were at least as many fans outside and Whedon was determined to say hello to as many of them as possible. Signing autographs and lingering to chat, he quickly won the hearts of the crowd. His niceness seemed to stem in part from an ability to identify with them - he still sees himself as one of the fans, as was apparent from his excitement at getting to meet Glasgow comics legend Frank Quitely later that night. The two of them spent a long time talking at the closing party, sharing a bottle of very expensive champagne with festival director Allison Gardner. Whedon likes the festival, he says, because it's still small and new, and he sees that as a positive thing. It's still full of potential.

That potential was very much the subject of discussion elsewhere at the party, which was attended by stars like Peter Mullan and Muriel Gray. Next year's event will be the festival's tenth anniversary. This year it once again shattered its ticket sales record. We look forward to seeing what it has in store in 2014.

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