Zinging in the rain

GFF Diary days 5&6: Mika Kaurismäki, Juan Diego Escobar Alzate and the Margaret Tait Award

by Jennie Kermode

The lurking zombie threat in Neo-Glasgow awaiting those trying to board the Train To Busan
The lurking zombie threat in Neo-Glasgow awaiting those trying to board the Train To Busan Photo: Ingrid Mur

Film festivals are a place where dreams can come true, at least onscreen – but what if you prefer something a little more tangible? Then you might need to take in Michael Crichton’s cautionary tale Westworld, which was screening on Sunday morning as part of the Glasgow Film Festival’s Retrospective of the Future. It proved quite enlightening to younger viewers who had only seen the TV series, and was enlivened by festival co-director Allan Hunter’s Yul Brynner impression. The perfect way to get away from it all on a cold, wet, raining day – and after a sunny start to the festival, the rain seemed determined the make its presence felt.

The team behind The Last Autumn
The team behind The Last Autumn Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

Planning ahead for the weather this year, someone on the GFF team decided that instead of laying down red carpet outside the venue and then having to put plastic over it, they’d just use red plastic – which seemed like a good idea until water started to pool on the ‘carpet’ and visiting stars found themselves a risk of aquaplaning. There have bee no noteworthy casualties so far, but just a tip: if you’re in the guest line-up this year, start your drinking after you arrive and leave by the back door.

For most attendees, of course, it’s all about the films, and daytime on Sunday presented a chance to catch up with crowd favourites including Lost transmissions and Escape from Pretoria, as well as catching Dathaí Keane’s surreal puppeteer adventure Finky, Chilean documentary Santiago, Italia and backwoods Canadian drama And The Birds Rained Down. Haunting Colombian drama Valley Of Souls followed a man travelling downriver in search of his murdered sons, and there was a big audience response to Anthony Baxter’s Flint, one of those rare documentaries about a story most of its audience is familiar with (the water crisis in Flint, Michigan) which nevertheless has them gasping in horror as new revelations emerge.

One Taxi Ride director Mak CK
One Taxi Ride director Mak CK Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

Also screening in the evening was delightful Finnish/Chinese drama Master Cheng, of which director Mika Kaurismäki, attending for a discussion afterwards, said “In the time when politicians want to divide people, I wanted to make a film that unites. It’s my most political film.” Icelandic documentary The Last Autumn attracted similar comments from audience members, focusing on one elderly couple’s experience of saying goodbye to their farm but, through that, touching on wider issues about the loss of traditional ways of life – something which has touched the lives of many Scots directly.

It was an evening packed with good things, from character-based comedy Standing Up, Falling Down, which reveals a side to Billy Crystal’s talents that you might not have been aware of, to thoughtful cultural documentary Henry Glassie: Field Of Work and animé adventure Violet Evergarden: Eternity And The Auto Memories Doll. Brazilian documentary one Taxi Ride took on the difficult subject of male rape, whilst The Painted Bird, adapted from Jerzy Kosinski’s visceral Holocaust novel, proved so disturbing that several audience members fled less than halfway through.

Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
Juan Diego Escobar Alzate Photo: Kat Gollock

The Arches remained in Neo-Glasgow mode all day, with a family-friendly event in the morning around a screening of Wall-E and, in the evening, a deadly assault by zombies which forced those attending for Train to Busan to run the gauntlet of the undead before they could take their seats. Fortunately there was beer available in the screening itself to make everything better. Still, probably the strangest experience of the evening awaited those innocently taking their seat in the GFT’s Screen 3 for what they thought would be a simple lesson in Canadian history. There is nothing quite like The Twentieth Century and once you’ve seen it, maple walnut ice cream will never taste quite the same again.

By the time morning came, some festival-goers were already beginning to look quite worn out. Staff members were celebrating the last Monday of the festival; of course, it was also the first Monday of the festival, but that was just an extra excuse for a party. The day kicked off with a screening a science fiction classic Logan’s Run, which saw Allan Hunter shock the audience with the revelation that he’s over 30, and then it was on to a screening of Dorothy Arzner’s gutsy satire on marriage Merrily We Go to Hell and a chance to catch up on some of the previous day’s highlights.

The evening saw the announcement of this year’s Margaret Tait awards, which went to Emilia Beatriz for her collection of artworks exploring Europe’s traditional cultural relationships with bees and the production of honey. it was an event nicely complemented by the later screening of Stories From The Chestnut Woods, a different kind of European cinematic work exploring the places where folk tales collide on cultural borderlands.

Many people were off to the Glee Club in the evening for the GFF Pub Quiz, but there were also some screenings worth checking out. We’d previously interviewed Juan Diego Escobar Alzate about his intoxicating tale of distorted religion Luz: The Flower Of Evil and he had been nervous about how it would go down, but he needn’t have worried. For those looking for something a little gentler, sweet Icelandic family comedy Pity The Lovers hit the spot, whilst Irish drama Arracht, whose director Tom Sullivan told us “the gods were absolutely on our side” when it came to filming, proved one of the most talked-about films of the festival so far.

We’ll have another update for you soon as the festival drama continues apace.

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