GFF diary, episode one

Life is nothing if not totally ironic...

by Jennie Kermode

Attending a film festival is always exciting - the stars, the premieres, the enthusiastic crowds. Attending a film festival as a journalist is equally good fun but a little stressful, with multitudinous appointments to keep, lots of people with whom it is important to be diplomatic and far too much alcohol around for that to be easy. Organising the coverage of a film festival, however, is something else again. Schedules to arrange, interviews to obtain, a team of writers to keep track of and, no matter how carefully one plans, inevitable crises.

I started organising my team for the fourth Glasgow Film Festival in January. Scott, the most experienced, adaptable and able to work with minimal supervision, but commuting from Edinburgh. Andrew, who is hard working and capable but must be prevented from getting into arguments at all costs, or there'll be blood on the red carpet. Susanna, smart and incisive but still learning her craft. Stuart, primarily there to do photography, too shy to do interviews, though you wouldn't know it from the way he dresses - at past festivals he's been repeatedly mistaken for a star. All on board. All good. Then Scott discovered that other obligations meant he could only work one day. Andrew could only do two full days and mornings. Susanna could only do evenings. And Stuart also had to organise an exhibition of his work, Moving Pictures (which you can see at the Thirteenth Note between the 18th and 24th, if you're interested).

So far, so awkward. Then there were tickets to sort out. After we'd received the first few, festival director Allan Hunter graciously arranged for us to have some more, but they wouldn't be available until day one of the festival itself. I was ill, so sent my flatmate Steve in to get them, but he had no luck. At an event like this, everybody always has too much to keep track of. My second volunteer, Donald, was more successful, but picked them up with just minutes to spare before the start of The 11th Hour. As they say in Cassandra's Dream, "Life is nothing if not totally ironic".

I'd been to see Cassandra's Dream a couple of days before the festival began, but it was only unleashed to the public that night, in a spectacular opening gala. Star Ewan McGregor couldn't make it but sent a video message: "I’m performing here in London in Othello at the moment and can’t make it. I’m very proud that Cassandra’s Dream is opening the festival tonight and I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. Have a great night and I’ll maybe see you there next year." Which may well be the case, with the way the event is growing. Quite a few stars have been spotted so far and the great John Sayles is due to drop in on Monday. With numerous celebrity film introductions and Q&A events planned, audiences have a lot to look forward to.

I wasn't among those out drinking into the small hours to celebrate the launch; it was Valentine's Day, after all, and I had a nice bottle of Italian white to share with my beloved, who revived me with a shish kebab after too many hours of staring at a screen. Still, I couldn't have too much fun, as I had to get up the following morning. Even though the festival is on, there are still new releases to keep track of. This morning's was The Game Plan, a comedy vehicle with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as a quarterback learning to be a dad. Joy. It was just before this that I discovered Susanna couldn't cover either of the evening's films for me. My own game plan was screwed, as I sat there watching butch Americans squirt water at each other and frantically texting everybody I could think of. Mercifully, Stuart was able to fit it in at the last minute, before running to a gig he was scheduled to photograph. I also had to arrange an interview by text there in the darkness, taking great pains to do everything quietly. It was only when the credits rolled that I looked around and discovered most of my fellow critics had already legged it.

After a morning like that it was a great relief to return to the world of art film, and I was in for a treat in the evening: as Stuart attended Steve Buscemi's latest project, the gentle comedy Lonesome Jim, I went to see French drama Michou D'Auber. It's a crying shame that this great little picture doesn't have a UK distributor yet. The poignant tale of a young ethnically Arab boy staying with foster parents in a conservative village during the Algerian War, it mixes politics with romance and subtle observational humour. Gerard Depardieu gives one of his best performances for years. The audience clearly loved it.

And that about wraps it up for days one and two. According to festival director Allison Gardner, there've been pre-festival ticket sales of over 10,000, so it looks as if a good proportion of Glasgow's population has decided to attend - and probably quite a few visitors, too. We'll continue to bring you all the latest news and gossip as it reaches us, so watch this space!

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