Award winners and jurors at the Glasgow Short film Festival Photo: Andrew Robertson
The Glasgow Short Film Festival's awards ceremony was a good humoured affair - helped by the comedy stylings of Indie Cork's Ronan Leonard who was this year hosting slightly more on purpose. After the usual litany of thanks including the roll of honoured volunteers (we salute you, yellow t-shirted heroes) and returning sponsors Merchant City Brewing, it was on to the awards. Biggar Gin (the other drinks sponsor) provided part of the prizes, but I must confess I did not hear a single joke about the bottles - perhaps they were just the right size.
Civic House was again festival hub, and apart from a bit of bitterness about a collapsed ceiling ("six inches of dust" is odd material for a running joke, but even less useful on a desk) they've been a popular venue - I'm not sure if it was they or CCA's Saramago café responsible for introducing the international jury to vegan haggis but I do think festival director Matt Lloyd's commitment to eating lunch there for the next few weeks entirely justified.
We Are All Here is an audience favourite Photo: Ingrid Mur
The thanks also included Hans Lucas, whose Blueprint programme was in its fourth year - Eye For Film are not alone in hoping that current plans to retire the event are herald instead of a hiatus, but in a festival where we had several conversations about funding and forms of support other than finance we can totally understand the precarity that all too often and all too sadly characterises independent film-making.
Blueprint's audience award was the first of the evening - such is the parlous state of film finance in the indie sector that the £500 of equipment hire that formed the prize was no longer available because the firm providing it had ceased trading. The winner was no less deserving for that shortfall though - In The Fall is a stunning bit of film-making, in a Blueprint programme that focussed on the work of Alan McLaughlin and featured discussion of the specificities of film (and its apparatus) it was an absolute highlight - though there wasn't space to show it in full at the awards ceremony I got to see it twice as it also screened in the Scottish Shorts programme - and its strength was indicative of the quality across the festival. The Hilton Earl Memorial was being awarded for only the second time - last year's winner, Daniel Cook (for The King And I) had returned for GSFF with even more experimental locative piece Glassmount, and we look forward to more work from Tom Gentle.
The next prize was the Production Attic Pitch Award - presented by Soda Jerk whose Terror Nullius opened the festival, the tiny antipodeans followed the host's advice not to block sponsor logos as they praised the quality of the pitches. "Every one of them... brought a unique voice... no two even remotely similar... desperately want to see all those films" and it "broke [their] heart" to have to choose. A "project deceptively simple" with great ambition, named Exotic was chosen, and we look forward to it - winners Marcus Macnair and Lorna King said of their competitors that they were "glad to be in the same company", and the Angelero sisters were effusive in their hopes that all would get the chance to make their film.
Applause from the audience at the Glasgow Short Film Festival Photo: Ingrid Mur
The Bill Douglas Award for international film was next - Jurors Jacopo Chessa, Pamela Pianezza, and Shalimar Preuss (whose Strange Says The Angel was in the prizes last year) were new to Glasgow, saying they "love it and can't wait to be back," and that they could feel the love in the festival. I abbreviated Bill Douglas Special Mention in my notes but am grateful I didn't apply it as a hashtag - those went to Jujuba, describing it as 'powerful', 'a poetic rendition of [someone who is] more than a step-mother.' They also praised Edgecombe for its "elegant powerful and sensitive take on what it meant and still means to [be black in America]". Crystal Kayiza's film is one we weren't able to catch at the festival, but it's been to Sundance and will hopefully be available to other audiences soon.
The award was given to a film the jury described as 'mysterious', one that 'reveals itself gradually' to talk about 'life and death', 'civilisation and its margins', the Finnish work Liminality & Communitas. Its director appeared in a video message from Helsinki - in which she described herself as 'totally astonished', blowing a raspberry in the middle that elicited a laugh from all attending.
The audience award went to Tungrus - a film whose ending meant that those of us in the screening who had seen it before were waiting for the reaction of the awards audience who laughed almost all the way through. No spoilers, but definitely one of those moments where the magic of the medium is also in the middle of the masses...
The Scottish Short Film Jury (Sarah Dombrink, Leslie Hills, Wouter Jansen) were up next - they gave special mentions too. One to Simone Smith's Slap (another one we didn't catch, though she was curator the amazing Blueprint B-Roll this year and we did see that, including Roy Andersson's World Of Glory on 35mm twice). Praising the 'work of its director' they were eager to 'encourage [her] individual take on the world'. She was grateful, describing slap as 'completely independently made', for just £800. She explained that she 'really appreciated' the recognition, and we hope it helps her secure funding for her next project(s). The jury also made special mention of We Are All Here, describing it as an 'emotional film' about how 'the death of a young man' became 'an impetus for change'.
Matt Lloyd and Sanne Jehoul at the Glasgow Short Film Festival closing ceremony Photo: Andrew Robertson
The award itself went to a film that 'achieved what it set out to do', depicting 'a whole multi-faceted life of a woman of accomplishment', the lovely Mum's Cards. Director Luke Fowler was at another festival showing another film, so his mother was at GSFF in his stead - he'd apparently told her if he won anything it was meant to repay her for childhood, but even after festival commissar Sanne Jehoul's clarification of the prize monies (Bill Douglas is £1,000, Scottish is £1,500) it still seemed that even with the bottle of gin it wouldn't quite cover it.
In a delightful speech with a family anecdote and a Blake quotation ("mind formed manacles") we were reminded that systems of thinking are forms of determinism, but because they're not nature we're at liberty to reverse them. It was stirring stuff - as was in Scots parlance the story about a misbehaving grandson. The final award was another audience choice - Hannah Currie's We Are All Here. Called back on stage again, having earlier said that she "drank far too much to speak to this many," she acquitted herself well - she'd earlier said that she was massively humbled, and when the award was announced she seemed massively shocked. The prize for the audience award is a commission, and her opening "I don't even know how to make a trailer" was greeted with good humour.
The co-founder of MILK has a background in events, but she's clearly a natural behind the camera - her début film came close to doing the double at GSFF and would not have been undeserving. She spoke passionately about how discussions of suicide have improved on social and other media, but that they targeted "a certain section of society." She was glad "to have been able to put [other groups] on screen and have people relate", to have made a difference impact for and with folk who are "not among [those who frequent] gallery space[s]". Describing herself as "very, very appreciative" her film became the last screening of the 2019 festival.
In front of a symbolically (though perhaps not deliberately) blank screen, host Ronan observed that there were only 361 days to the next festival. That's plenty of time to make a film, by the way - we've checked.