Marvels of Mars

GFF days 6 & 7: Steve Niles, Steven Sterlacchini, Alex Salmond and the terrors of the deep.

by Jennie Kermode

Mark Millar and Alex Salmond at the GFT. Photo by Max Crawford.
Mark Millar and Alex Salmond at the GFT. Photo by Max Crawford. Photo: Max Crawford

It was a Marvellous morning at the Glasgow Film Festival on Tuesday, as comics fans lined up for a chance to see all their favourite Marvel movies on the big screen in a row - Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers Assemble. With Kapow!@GFF strand director Mark Millar now a creative consultant on forthcoming Marvel films, the festival has the inside track on what's happening with their heroes.

It was a busy day for Mark as later he had a special guest to interview - Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, who cut short a meeting with the Swedish ambassador to get to the GFT for a performance of his favourite geek movie. John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars might not be everybody's first choice, but Salmond justified it fairly well, saying he sees it as a reworking of Quatermass And The Pit, the first film he ever saw at the cinema. He also spoke of his enthusiasm for the festival's Doctor Who strand and his envy of former Green MSP Robin Harper who has a scarf like his favourite Doctor, Tom Baker.

While Salmond discussed being a Superman fan, other fans gathered at the CCA to discuss the art of making a fan film. The workshop was led by Steven Sterlacchini, with a screening of much admired Judge Dredd fan film Judge Minty, and it focused on the new editing software that can enable low budget filmmakers to produce high quality work. There was also discussion of distribution and the best way to get your work out there to the masses, so with a bit of luck we'll see some interesting work emerging from this over the next year.

That evening, festival attendees also had the chance to go on a walking tour that took in the highlights of Glasgow's cinema history. Glasgow still sells more cinema tickets per head than any other city in the UK, and has in the past been home to over 300 cinemas, many of them in buildings you'd never guess had been entertainment venues. Some of these were converted warehouses but others were purpose built, with capacities ranging from 200 to just eight, reflecting the diversity of the films that were shown.

For those who wanted to sit down and watch something that night, there was plenty to choose from. Chilean drama A Map For Love told the fraught tale of a young woman introducing her mother to her girlfriend on a sailing trip, Tower painted a portrait of an awkward man who just miht have done something terrible, and documentary Village At The End Of The World gave viewers a sneak peek at life in an Arctic town with a population of just 59. There was also a chance to meet writer Steve Niles who spoke at length about his carer and creations before a screening of his horror hit 30 Days Of Night. Music fans could enjoy In Search Of Blind Joe Death: The Saga Of John Fahey and ther was a special performance by folk trio Lau at a screening of Nevada, a story of marital strife losely based on the breakdown of the relationship between Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe.

Folk band Lau perform at Nevada. Photo by Max Crawford.
Folk band Lau perform at Nevada. Photo by Max Crawford. Photo: Max Crawford

Documentary makers had an early start the following day with a long workshop run by DocFest's Charlie Phillips, while another popular gathering was celebrated at the GFT with a screening of Morgan Spurlock's Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. There was also a chance o look back at Scotland's cinematic history as cast and crew members assembled for a rare showing of Venus Peter, the tale of a boy growing up on Orkney in the Forties that charmed audiences back in 1989.

Later highlights included the devastating documentary How To Survive A Plague, about the early days of AIDS activism; The World's Most Fashionable Prison, about the surprising difference a fashion show makes to inmates of a high security Filipino institution; sinister surrealist tale The Fifth Season; and musical treat Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes Of Sigríður Níelsdóttir. Meanwhile, the eagerly anticipated Surprise Movie was revealed, in a supreme act of trolling, to be Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Whilst Korine has legions of devoted fans he also tends to have a dramatic effect on those who don't connect with his work, with reports of some even being physically sick. Unsurprisingly, quite a few people walked out.

For those willng to risk a litle seasickness at the outset, there was a special chance to see some watery themed films in an unusual location - The Tall Ship. First up was much-loved Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!, after which things took a more sinister turn with Nicole Kidman thriller Dead Calm. Don't assume it's safe to go back into the water, because there's still a lot more to come over the next few days.

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