Team spirit

GFF Diary days 11&12: Gemma Arterton, Ben Wheatley, Douglas King, Frightfest and international solidarity

by Jennie Kermode

The Glasgow Film Festival closing party
The Glasgow Film Festival closing party Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

After all the chaos of Snowmageddon, the final two days of the Glasgow Film Festival went a lot more smoothly, with most films and events back to normal. It was a particularly good day for younger viewers, with sword and sorcery epic Willow and Bollywood spectacular Bride And Prejudice playing at Kinning Park Carnival, where there were also animal balloons and other entertainment. The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales screened at the GFT and there was also Chinese fantasy epic Legend Of The Mountain to enjoy, with one kind soul bringing doughnuts to share with random viewers in recognition of the fact that it’s over three hours long. Then there was a special screening of Run Lola Run put on by the Glasgow Youth Film Festival team, which attracted quite a crowd.

Bollywood-style dance lessons at Bride And Prejudice
Bollywood-style dance lessons at Bride And Prejudice Photo: Ingrid Mur

Older viewers had two very different documentaries to enjoy in the shape of Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House and Descent Into The Maelstrom: The Radio Birdman Story, plus a great set of features. Liquid Truth and No Date, No Signature presented challenging moral quandaries, Quality Time was a marmite film making bold experiments with form, and Super November, introduced by director Douglas King and stars Sean Biggerstaff, Josie Long and Darren Osborne, won over the audience with its combination of a locally set romance and end of the world themes – see our feature on the première. Meanwhile, Nico, 1988 proved a highlight of the festival’s musical films, a seventysomething woman took on the relatives determined to control her life in Violeta At Last, a middle class woman felt her life drifting out of control in Escape (with star Gemma Arterton present to take viewers’ questions afterwards) and there was a 20th anniversary screening of vampire thriller Blade which, it has just been announced, will also screen at a special event at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival in June.

Alongside all this, the second day of Frightfest was going strong. Attendees were very impressed by Basque fairytale The Devil And The Blacksmith, with those who arrived late kicking themselves when they heard about it. Pyewacket impressed with its sound design and slow approach to building up fear, though some felt it squandered this towards the end. Secret Santa got a mixed reception, some feeling that it was hateful whilst others argued that the characters were hateful and that was why it was fun to see them get killed. Unfortunately director Adam Marcus the cast couldn’t stand up for their film because – ironically enough – they had been trapped in London by the snow, so all they could do was to send a video introduction.

Gemma Arterton discusses Escape
Gemma Arterton discusses Escape Photo: Max Crawford

Nobody had a bad word to say about Tigers Are Not Afraid, a child’s eye take on Mexican cartel violence that invited Grave Of The Fireflies comparisons and had much of the audience in tears. Director Issita Lopez was there to discuss it, having travelled up from London with the Frightfest team despite everything the weather threw at them, and she was rewarded by several viewers saying that they thought it was the best film of the festival.

The following day opened with the last film in the festival’s Rebel Heroes strand, Dog Day Afternoon, and also included a screening of local black comedy favourite Orphans. Later, a chance to see Ben Wheatley speak in person about his work was a big hit with fans. And then there was the closing gala.

Five years ago, short film Nae Pasaran introduced the story of Scottish factory workers whose refusal to work on aircraft parts scheduled for sale to Chile helped bring the murderous Pinochet regime to an end. At that time, we talked with director Felipe Bustos Sierra, who told us about his plans to expand it into a feature length documentary. That feature, sharing the same title, closed the festival, and received a standing ovation from the audience.

Ben Wheatley chats about his career
Ben Wheatley chats about his career Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

Finally, there was the matter of the audience award, which this year went to Xavier Legrand for hard-hitting drama Custody. "It is a great honour to win this award,” said the director. “My thanks go to the festival and its wonderful audiences for it. The festival has a great spirit and sense of community especially in the face of this week's weather events, and myself and the film's star Denis Menochet hope to revisit again in the coming years, with or without the snow!"

Making a farewell to all from the festival before the party at The Old Fruitmarket, Allison Gardner summed it up. “We have had the most wonderful time at GFF18, from our stunning stop animation Opening with the UK Premiere of Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs... Despite the best efforts of the Beast from the East, our fantastic team here pulled together and achieved the herculean task of ‘the show must go on.’”

Though it’s not yet known how badly the festival has been impacted financially by the weather, we can confirm that it was enjoying a bumper year before the storm hit, and everyone involved has been impressed by how the team soldiered through. We look forward to its return in 2019.

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