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GFF Diary days 11&12: Beats, Frightfest, Michael Palin, Vicky Knight and terror in the woods

by Jennie Kermode

The cast of Beats take to the stage at the closing gala
The cast of Beats take to the stage at the closing gala Photo: Pete Copeland

There was a lot going on on the last Saturday of the Glasgow Film Festival, which began with a screening of Irish charmer Metal Heart, the story of two very different sisters. Director Hugh O’Connor discussed it with the audience afterwards and explained that he had been determined from the outset to treat his characters respectfully and was never going to have a Breakfast Club ending where the goth character was made over to look like a popular girl. Russian drama Summer immersed itself in the revolutionary atmosphere of rock music in Leningrad in the 1980s, the première of Dirty God - attended by director Sacha Polak and star Vicky Knight – saw a young mother reclaiming her life after being scarred in an acid attack, and documentary Netizens took on the issue of the harassment of women online.

Søren Juul Petersen reads a newspaper reporting on events in Finale
Søren Juul Petersen reads a newspaper reporting on events in Finale Photo: Max Crawford

In the evening, audiences showed a lot of love for Love Movie, with director Emma Rose Simon and star Lana Cooper attending for a Q&A at which the former revealed that the story was based partly on her own relationship, and there was also a screening of the eagerly anticipated Vox Lux, which stars Natalie Portman as a school shooting survivor turned pop star.

Saturday also saw the second half of Glasgow Frightfest, which opened with The Siren (until recently known as The Rusalka). We recently interviewed director Perry Blackshear about it and he was happy to be there is person to respond to audience questions. It didn’t work for everybody there but some fans adored it, calling it mythic and romantic; other simply welcomed the fact that it wasn’t too loud and aggressive at a point when they were still nursing hangovers.

Allan Hunter and Patrick Wang discuss A Bread Factory
Allan Hunter and Patrick Wang discuss A Bread Factory Photo: Pete Copeland

Next up at Frightfest was Automata, finished at the very last minute, and it was followed by Finale, with director Søren Juul Petersen there to explain how it was made. The Witch: Part 1, The Subversion followed, making it a pretty gory night, but don’t let anybody tell you there isn’t a lightheearted side to FrightFest – at one point Videoman director Kristian A Söderström had audience members up on stage dancing to see who could win DVDs. Of course there were, as usual, a lot of DVDa simply given away as well.

It was the penultimate Frightfest feature, Freaks, which was the big hit of the day, wowing the crowd – it’s the story of a little girl who has been told never to leave her house and what happens to her when she breaks the rules. The evening rounded off with haunted hoarders TV spoof The Hoard.

Elsewhere, there was a different kind of spooky experience available. Quite a few film fans were seen in the bars at the various festival venues loading up on drink to give themselves some Dutch courage before boarding a bus to be taken to a secret location – actually Mugdock Country Park – for a screening of The Blair Witch Project. This was apparently very scary indeed, beginning with a trek through the woods and ending up with some attendees running round the ruined castle there until hey found themselves looking into the corners. The following day there were rumurs that not everyone who went there had returned.

Hamish MacInnes and Michael Palin
Hamish MacInnes and Michael Palin Photo: Eoin Carey

Documentary Final Ascent screened on Sunday morning with its subject, the legendary climber Hamish MacInnes, in attendance alongside his friend Michael Palin and director Robbie Fraser. There was also some difficult discussion around documentary Do No Harm, which invstigates the history of doctors colluding with state-sponsored torture and was attended by director Stephen Bennett and former Guantanamo Bay detaineee Moazzam Begg. Elsewhere, director Patrick Wang intrroduced and discussed A Bread Factory parts one and two, about a couple battling to save their local arts centre, and there was a family screening of The Iron Giant.

The festival came to an end with a closing gala screening of Beats, a musical comedy-drama about two teenage best friends spending a last night out together at a Nineties rave, with the audience erupting into a spontaneous cheer as the two took ecstasy for the first time. Director Brian Walsh, screenwriter Kieran Hurley and the full cast walked the red carpet beforehand and mingled with viewers afterwards at successive parties, first in the Arches and then in the Sub Club. The Audience Award was presented to Harry Birrell: Films Of Love And War – Harry “would be over the moon” said director Matt Pinder – and the festival came to a close with the announcement that it had seen record-breaking attendance figures. Here’s hoping that next year will be bigger and better still!

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