The shivers

GFF Diary days 9&10: The Thing in the snow, Frightfest, Terence Davies, Quinton Aaron and more.

by Jennie Kermode

Chilling out before The Thing
Chilling out before The Thing Photo: Ingrid Mur

Thursday morning at the Glasgow Film Festival saw a surprising number of people admitting that they’d never seen Chinatown. Doing so on a big screen was a great way to start the day, and they certainly saw what the fuss was about. It opened a day of morally challenging films that really got audiences talking, though they didn’t manage to scandalise people the way Elle and Original Bliss did earlier in the festival. Troubling Romanian tale Graduation made quite an impression; director Cristian Mungiu recently told us that he sees it as a story about consciousness and honesty, with lots of different levels – and documentary Angry Inuk surprised a lot of attendees by prompting them to change their minds about seal hunting, an issue they had considered morally straightforward, as it explored the impact of bans on Inuit communities.

Terence Davies discusses A Quiet Passion
Terence Davies discusses A Quiet Passion Photo: Glasgow Film Fetsival

Also showing that afternoon was documentary Small Town Rage, introduced by directors David Hyland and Raydra Hall, about the activists who fought against AIDS and apathy in the small Louisiana town of Shreveport in the Eighties, a tale of the personal meeting the political. A similar theme emerged in the very different fictional tale A Quiet Passion, which saw Cynthia Nixon play the poet Emily Dickinson, a performance fans were very excited about. Director Terence Davies spoke afterwards but unfortunately the event ran short of time and not everybody was able to ask the questions they had hoped to. He spoke to us about it last year.

The evening pulled in the crowds with screenings of the very popular Goldstone and the whimsical The Ornithologist, which is also set to screen at BFI Flare in London next month. There was also a screening of US drama Halfway, which sees a recently paroled black man trying to cope in an all-white Wisconsin farming community. It was presented by producer Johnny Paterson and star Quinton Aaron (most famous for The Blind Side), with the latter clearly delighted to be at the festival and posing for lots of selfies with fans.

Quinton Aaron talks Halfway
Quinton Aaron talks Halfway Photo: Neil Thomas Douglas

The big event that night was a special screening of John Carpenter classic The Thing, which took place in sub-zero temperatures at indoor ski venue Snow Factor. Attendees were advised to wear warm clothing and turned up snuggled in thick jackets, wearing woolly hats and scarves. Some sipped hot chocolate as they sat in deckchairs waiting for the film to start, but they were warned that they might not all last until the end. The place was littered with discarded crates, smashed up computers and bits of what looked like intestine, with bloody handprints on the walls. The presence of a dog running around really set nerves on edge, and despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to find out where it came from.

The fear factor continued to loom large on Friday as this year’s Glasgow offshoot of Frightfest took over GFT 1. It wasn’t quite the local event it used to be, with about half the audience having travelled up from London, many saying that the atmosphere in Glasgow reminds them of how the main August festival used to be in its early days. Getting to Glasgow hadn’t been easy for them, however. It was pure coincidence that there’s a film playing at this festival called Hello, My Name Is Doris, but the Doris they’d run into en route hadn’t been as forgiving as Sally Field – the storm had wreaked havoc with transport systems and many had endured lengthy journeys, arriving late and grateful to get there at all. Fortunately the Frightfest team were ready to welcome them with DVD giveaways (of a notably better quality than usual), lots of special guests and a line-up which didn’t hit a single false note.

Alankrita Shrivastava presents Lipstick Under My Burkha
Alankrita Shrivastava presents Lipstick Under My Burkha Photo: Neil Thomas Douglas

First up was slightly cheesy but well received teen actioner The Warrior’s Gate, presented by director Matthias Hoene; then It Stains The Sand Red, reckoned by many to be a real standout and one of the best films of the festival overall, which follows a woman being followed through the desert by a single unrelenting zombie, and was introduced by director Colin Minihan and star Britt Allen. “[It] was always a character journey through the desert,” Minihan has said of the film, noting that he found inspiration in the work of Gus Van Sant. Also highly praised at Frightfest was The Transfiguration, the story of a troubled teenager drawn to vampirism that echoes George Romero classic Martin. It was presented by director Michael O’Shea and producer Susan Leber. The biggest film of the day, eagerly awaited monster action epic Shin Godzilla, got mixed reactions, with some fans complaining that it included too much boring politics, but all agreed that the city-stomping moments, when they came, were awesome. Finally, Most Dangerous Game-style fable Happy Hunting, introduced by directors Louie Gibson and Joe Dietsch, went down a treat.

Kaweh Modiri and Sohrab Bayat on Bodkin Ras
Kaweh Modiri and Sohrab Bayat on Bodkin Ras Photo: Glasgow Film Fetsival

The other films screening that day were an interesting mix, including Kuso, which famously prompted walkouts at Sundance because viewers were so disgusted by it; and Lipstick Under My Burkha, presented by director Alankrita Shrivastava, which attracted a sell out crowd after it emerged that it has been refused public exhibition in India, its combination of feminism, comment on political corruption and celebration of female sexuality apparently too much for the censors. There was a chance to see Check it, a film about the LGBT street gang taking a literal approach to fighting back against prejudice in Washington DC, and Bodkin Ras, which blends fiction and documentary in its tale of a troubled young men entering a struggling community, and was presented by director Kaweh Modiri and star Sohrab Bayat. The Seasons In Quincy looked at the work of the work of recently departed writer John Berger – we recently discussed it with director Colin MacCabe - and the festival announced that, due to popular demand, an additional two screenings of Berlin Syndrome have been added to the programme.

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