Dog in the playground

GFF Diary days 1&2: Isle Of Dogs fever, documentaries, romance and groundhogs

by Jennie Kermode

Festival directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter with George the Ambassadog on the Isle Of Dogs red carpet in 2018
Festival directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter with George the Ambassadog on the Isle Of Dogs red carpet in 2018 Photo: Eoin Carey

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival opened with a woof on Wednesday night when Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs screened at the GFT, just a week after opening the Berlinale. Ticket holders and guests had queued around the block and some people with canine companions who couldn’t get in to the sold out screenings were there just to see the guests arrive – including a very special furry one.

George greets Isle Of Dogs producer Jeremy Dawson
George greets Isle Of Dogs producer Jeremy Dawson Photo: Eoin Carey

George the Ambassadog works for VisitScotland and was excited to attend, frolicking on the red carpet with festival directors Allan Hunter and Allison Gardner According to his handlers, he gave the film itself five paws. He rather stole the show from Jeremy Dawson, the film’s producer, who was nevertheless excited to be there. Inside, director Wes Anderson and stars Billy Murray, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman introduced it through a video message in their own special way. Attendees were already in a good mood following the discovery that their goody bags included special Isle Of Dogs branded chocolate rice cakes from local sushi restaurant Itsu.

Introducing the wider festival, Allan Hunter spoke about the important changes currently taking place in the film industry, referencing the Time’s Up movement and noting that seven out of the ten films eligible for this year’s Audience Award were directed by women.

After the screening, guests were invited to a party at 29 Glasgow featuring live taiko drumming by local group Mugenkyo, and free drink courtesy of Rekorderlig Botanicals and Staropramen helped to ensure that a great night was had by all.

They say that one should start as one means to go on, and for some festival attendees that was very much the case, as they began Thursday morning with a visit to Flat 0/1 162 Bath Street to sit on comfy couches and watch Groundhog Day – which will be screening in the same place, at the same time, on every single day of the festival.

It's Groundhog Day!
It's Groundhog Day! Photo: Flat 0/1

Festival-goers loved watching the women of a Swiss village stand up for their rights in The Divine Order, whilst a modern US teenager opted for a cloistered life in Chosen (Custody Of The Eyes), shown at a special screening at Glasgow Women’s Library. There was also a screening of documentary In The Name Of Peace: John Hume In America, which we recently discussed with its director, Maurice Fitzpatrick; and Romanian film Directions blurred the line between documentary and fiction as it presented a series of interlinked stories based on real life conversations with taxi drivers and shot in a single day.

Todd Haynes’ celebrated portrait of New York, Wonderstruck, thrilled viewers of all ages, and romantics were charmed by Keep The Change, the story of a relationship complicated by autism and featuring an autistic cast, which director Rachel Israel adapted from her 2013 short. Romance was also in the air for a bereaved man and his teenage son in The Bachelors – a chance to see a very different kind of performance from star JK Simmons – whilst a brother and sister struggled to find direction after the death of their father in Abundant Acreage Available.

All this in just two days, and there’s a great deal to come, so watch this space.

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