Big Vs Small Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival
As Glasgow Film Festival enters its second week, we've picked a few more highlights from this year's online edition, along with some films to catch elsewhere on TV or streaming services. Read more of our Glasgow coverage here
Big Vs Small, screening from Tuesday, March 2 to Friday, March 5
This is a surfing doc with a difference. It follows Portugal's first big wave surfer Joana Andrade as she deals with the ripples from her past through the giants she tackles in the present. Documentarian Minna Dufton follows Andrade as she heads to Finalnd to learn how to swim beneath the ice in order to overcome her fear of drowning. There, she meets Johanna Norblad, who is an inspiration in her own right. There's a real emphasis on patience and persistence alongside a belief in people's ability to learn something new as much as having an innate talent. Life affirming and inspiring. Read our full review.
The Dissident, screening from Saturday, March 6 to Tuesday, March 9
The 2018 death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been back in the news in the past week thanks to a US intelligence report laying the approval for his murder at the feet of the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.That makes this screening of Bryan Fogel's thorough documentary - which forensically makes the case for that blame - all the more relevant. He looks not only at what happened on the day of Khashoggi's death - using transcripts of a chilling audio recording that was seized by police to outline events - but also at the dissident network he was involved with and the ongoing fight of those who have fled the country to make their voices heard. Read our full review.
Gunda, screening from Sunday, March 7 to Wednesday, March 10
Anne-Katrin Titze writes: Gunda is an extraordinarily impactful, loving, and urgent film and the more people stumble upon it, because they are lured by a magnificent pig with the cutest piglets, shot in poised black and white, the better off they will be. We meet Gunda, it seems, while she is giving birth to her 13 piglets. The camera stays respectfully outside the small barn structure at first. A bit later we get very very close - one of the newborns is still wet - and we see what Gunda has to do to keep everything under control. We see them sleep, huddled together, and feed and play. Watching them makes you think of life and death and how absolutely wondrous it is that we are here. Piglets, hay, mud, the sky above, the earth below. Kossakovsky brings us to what it’s actually all about. And we play a part in it, daily, with our decisions for every meal. With the ongoing pandemic we know more than ever before about conditions at wet markets and processing plants all over the world, not far away at all, that deliver cheap meat and poultry, packaged up in plastic to make it least resemble a living soul with a face and a heart. It’s time to stop pretending. Gunda sends a most forceful message about gratitude, respect and humility and the horrors that humans unleash on the world everyday, every hour, becoming complicit in every meal where convenience is king. Read our full review.
Jellyfish, BBC iPlayer, for a year
The BBC has shown several strong British debut films in recent months, including Perfect 10 and Lynn And Lucy and now another one is available on iPlayer for a few months. Liv Hill announces herself as a real talent in her debut film role as Sarah, a youngster who tries to bring some semblance of order to the chaos of her home for her younger siblings while coping with her mum's mental health problems. James Gardner offers a window into Sarah's life as she tentatively dips her toe into stand-up comedy while juggling all the usual coming-of-age struggles faced by teenagers. Although a little overstuffed in terms of plot, Gardner, writing with Simon Lord, fully commits to Sarah, allowing her vulnerabilities to glitter beneath her apparent ability "to cope" with anything the world throws at her. Read our full review.
You Were Never Really Here, Film4, 11.20pm, March 5
Lynne Ramsay delivers a viscerally tense consideration of abuse wrapped up inside this taut thriller, starring Joaquim Phoenix as a suicidal hitman. The plot may be familiar turf - an assassin hunts for a missing girl - but Ramsay dives into the psychological waters of hitman Joe's past and present at the same time as he is going through the motions of his job. Phoenix has rarely been better than here, damaged and determined, with scenes alongside Joe's mother (Judith Roberts) achieving a particular heartbreaking poignancy. As Ramsay and Phoenix burrow deeper into the psyche of Joe, the mood intensifies - and it is us who find ourselves struggling to breathe. Read our full review.
Arrival, 9pm, Film4, Friday, March 5
Denis Villeneuve's science-fiction drama puts the emphasis on humans even as Earth is being visited by an alien race. It charts the work of linguist Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) as she, along with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) attempt to communicate with the squid-like new arrivals to our planet. This is a thoughtful consideration of communication and loss that unfolds gradually against its sci-fi backdrop, with Villeneuve retaining a sense of mystery and awe about the creatures thanks, in no small measure, to Bradford Young's excellent cinematography. Read our full review.
Escape From Pretoria, Amazon Prime
Tension thrums through virtually every moment of this slowburn prison break thriller from Francis Annan. Based on the book by Tim Jenkin (played here by Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe), it shows how a trio of political prisoners in Apartheid South Africa planned a breakout, not by the backdoor, but through the front. Annan really succeeds in making the details sing, keys in doors and the McGyver-style use of bubble gum. Although the set-up is certainly economical, it's a shame a little more back story wasn't given to Jenkin's fellow jailbirds, particularly Frenchman Leonard (Mark Leonard Fontaine), whose character feels every bit as fictional as it is and who is used largely just to underline the casual sadism of the regime. Still, when door push comes to prison-break shove, this delivers the edge-of-your-seat goods and though some of the ideas may be well-worn - like the classic overweight guard - they're still employed to good effect. A little more political meat on its bones and a little less reliance on voiceover might have improved things but this is still a solid thriller. Released just as cinemas were going into lockdown, it's now made it to Amazon and is well worth a watch. Read our interview with Annan and our full review.
This week's short selection is Stephen Saint Leger, who has gone on to direct several episodes of Vikings, and James Mather's nifty animation Prey Alone - which is even more clever than it might first appear.