The festival that came in from the cold

GFF Diary days 9&10: Frightfest takes on the Beast from the East and the groundhog returns

by Jennie Kermode

A snow day at the festival
A snow day at the festival Photo: Eoin Carey

Thursday morning at the Glasgow Film Festival began in a state of uncertainty. Many ticket-holders were unable to leave their homes, let alone reach the cinema, because of the snow. Normal transport services weren’t running and there was concern that more snow might fall later in the day. But it was generally agreed that, as long as people could be kept safe, the show must go on. So the CCA managed to open for a few hours around lunchtime and the GFT opened at one, manned by staff and volunteers who had slept there overnight to make sure film fans wouldn’t be disappointed.

May Miles Thomas talks Voyageuse
May Miles Thomas talks Voyageuse Photo: Eoin Carey

Some individual screenings had to be cancelled and Cineworld dropped all its planned festival screenings, including South African body swap tale High Fantasy, but there was still an opportunity to see documentary Haiku On A Plum Tree, the wonderfully poetic Voyageuse, sinister festival circuit favourite Vampire Clay and Cold War defection story The Dissidents, whose cast had hoped to attend but were unable to get a flight beyond Amsterdam. Unfortunately, it wasn’t considered safe to run the late screenings, so Irish Gothic fantasy The Lodgers, which we recently discussed with director Brian O’Malley, had to be dropped. Festival director Allison Gardner, who insisted she wasn’t responsible for the snow despite having scheduled Pure Baltic to begin on the previous day, refused to let anyone leave the GFT until they assured her that they could get home safely.

That night, our thoughts were with the Frightfest team, who had attempted to travel up from London along with Ghost Stories director Andy Nyman, only to get stuck in Preston when snow blocked the northward line. Despite rumours of cannibalism and a mysterious disappearance, they successfully found a guest house and some beer, and the following day, with trains still stuck, they managed to travel by road, arriving in Glasgow to a warm welcome just before their first film was due to screen.

Allan Hunter and Bernard McLaverty discuss Cal
Allan Hunter and Bernard McLaverty discuss Cal Photo: Max Crawford

Although few of the expected special guests managed to make the journey, Frightfest was still enormously popular with viewers. There was a lot of love for B-movie production spoof Attack Of The Bat Monsters, introduced by Norah Greene (the daughter of director Kelly Greene, whom we interviewed just before the festival began). Pared-down zombie actioner Ravenous attracted praise and viewers couldn’t get enough of Cold Skin, with several saying that they intended to go out and buy the book it’s based on.

Although most parts of the wider festival were now back to normal, with basic transport services around the city also up and running, and with the street outside the GFT shovelled free of snow by Allison Gardner herself, most of the day’s guest events had to be cancelled, the exception being Bernard McLaverty’s talk on his 1984 film Cal. There was a great selection of film screening, from curious architectural documentary Ouroboros to Polish/Brazilian romance Man Proposes, God Disposes, Indian charmer Village Rockstars, Lithuanian satire Miracle and pithy Dutch tale of social media outrage Find This Dumb Little Bitch And Throw Her Into A River. And if anyone needed a sign that the snowpocalypse was truly over – not a blizzard any more but just a few snowflakes – they had only to look out for a certain furry festival friend – it was Groundhog Day again.

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