The Eagle has landed

GFF Diary days 10 and 11: Agnosia, Frightfest, Anthony LaPaglia and The Eagle.

by Jennie Kermode

The final two days of the Glasgow Film Festival were a quieter time for the Eye For Film team as events gradually wound down, but we needed it. Despite a more normal amount of sleep on the Friday night I just couldn't feel properly awake on the Saturday and kept losing my place with my work, which meant that editing took a lot longer than I'd anticipated and I missed out on meeting the director and stars of The Guga Hunters Of Ness when they visited the CCA. It's a shame because I really liked their film, the best documentary about killing baby gannets on a rock in the middle of the northern sea that you'll ever see. Though its subject may sound dull, it captures very effectively what the hunt means to the men involved in it and to the community on the Isle of Lewis from which they come.

The CCA was dedicating the whole day to Ceol's Craic, a strand focused on films made by and about indigenous peoples around the world. It includes the fascinating documentary Qimmit: A Clash Of Two Truths about the disappearance of sled dogs in the Canadian Arctic. Like the other smaller strands at the festival, it's something of an experiment, a way of finding out how interested audiences are in a different sort of film, but the response seems to have been very good. Likewise there has been a great deal of enthusiasm for the Fashion strand, now in its second year, which on Saturday included the première of a new film by Scottish designer Iona Crawford, followed by the launch of her latest collection. There was a party later in the Blythswood Hotel, which Stuart attended, and which attracted the cream of Scottish fashion talent.

Unable to finish work in time to get to said party, I was worried that I might even be late for my final film, but as it turned out it wasn't a problem. Though I got to the GFT with just minutes to spare I had still had to wait in a long queue - the screening was sold out - as Balibo, which had been on beforehand, overran. Nobody wanted to tell Anthony LaPaglia to hurry up and, indeed, he was very popular with the audience, who talked on their way out about how powerful they had found the film.

So it was late on Saturday night that I finally got to see my last film of the festival, Agnosia. As it turned out, it was also the best. This year's selection has been impressively solid throughout but I had yet to see anything that really blew me away and I figured the odds were against it; but right from the opening scenes I knew Agnosia was something special. The excitable audience, many suffering from festival fatigue and some already well into their celebratory end of event drinks, also seemed delighted, yet with just that edge of discomfort that showed the film was also making people think. I heard one couple arguing about it all the way home. It really is a gem of a film and I can't recommend it enough - in particular, you should see it if you have previously enjoyed the likes of Pan's Labyrinth and The Fall. It has a splendour that recalls the films of Terry Gilliam yet it has clearly, impressively, been made on a fraction of the budget - it'll be intriguing to see what director Eugenio Mira can do with more.

Saturday was also, of course, the second day of Frightfest, which you can see covered in detail in David's Frightfest diary. Almost everybody seemed to love Rubber, the quirky story of a tyre which develops consciousness and telekinetic powers. Donald spoke highly of Territories and Mother's Day, but was less impressed by Hobo With A Shotgun, feeling that it was spending an awful lot of money to look cheap. Stuart, on the other hand, loved it and has been quoting it incessantly ever since. It was followed by a Q&A with director Jason Eisener which we'll be bringing you here in due course.

The following day the festival was much quieter, with only a few films showing, though there was a lot of excitement about the closing gala, swords and sandals epic The Eagle. Starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell, it's he story of a young centurion who embarks on a daring mission north of Hadrian's Wall in an attempt to recover the gold eagle that was the totem of the Ninth Legion, lost there in combat some time previously. You'll be able to see it in cinemas across the UK from March 25th.

After the gala, the closing party took place in the basement of nearby St Jude's Hotel, with young women in togas greeting guests. Outside, a band of kilted drummers got the mood going and Glasgow burlesque star Cat Aclysmic performed a fire breathing act. She would later thrill attendees with her dramatic Queen of Night striptease, but she was kindly allowed to perform that in a warmer part of the venue. It fitted in well with the atmosphere of a bar now themes around the US prohibition period, which also suited the fact that nobody knew quite what they were drinking as free cocktails were handed out by the lovely people from Black Bottle. Though I can't drink alcohol any more I still have a nose for it, so I spent some time deciphering people's drinks. Meanwhile a pianist played everything from Georgia On My Mind to Life On Mars. Assorted celebrities mingled with the exhausted but happy festival staff; Pam Hogg, Sean Biggerstaff, Anthony LaPaglia and Kevin Bridges were all clearly enjoying themselves and there were still a few Frightfest directors hanging around.

As midnight approached I finally received informal confirmation that the festival has sold around 33,000 tickets, taking it well over last year's numbers and showing that it still has what it takes to do well, even when people are suffering financial difficulties. Talking to the crowd, the same names emerge again and again as favourites - Confessions, The Big Uneasy, Sound Of Noise, You Instead, Cell 211. Look out for them over the next year, and if you're interested in some of the more obscure titles we've covered here, don't forget that many small independent cinemas take requests. There's clearly an audience out there for intelligent, well crafted film - you can make it happen where you are, too.

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