It might lack a touch of the glitz, glamour and worldwide renown of its cousins in London and Edinburgh, but the Glasgow Film Festival is the Scottish cinephile’s favourite with good reason. More compact, more inclusive and – simply put – more fun than larger alternatives, it’s a spark of light at the end of the long Scottish winter that’s earned something of a cult status with fans in Scotland’s largest city and its visiting cast of international regulars.
Underdog pedigree aside, the festival is something of a powerhouse on its own gritty terms. From February 20th until March 3rd the historic Glasgow Film Theatre and 12 other venues around the city centre will host 337 screenings and industry events including seven world premieres, 102 UK premieres and 49 Scottish premieres.
Star visitors this year include actor, presenter and Monty Python legend Michael Palin, who’ll be in attendance for the UK premiere of new film Final Ascent about Scottish mountaineer Hamish MacInnes and taking part in a special podcast recording and Scottish actress and director Karen Gillan dropping in for the international premiere of her new release All Creatures Here Below.
Raising the curtain will be Jonah Hill’s writing/directorial debut Mid90s – a touching coming-of-age story set in, er, mid90s L.A. – while the festival will be closed out by another slice of 90s nostalgia: a ‘rave to the grave’ with the cinematic adaptation of Kieran Hurley’s award-winning play set against the backdrop the 1994 Criminal Justice Bill and rave culture’s infamous outlaw era.
Other highly-anticipated highlights include the gala screening of The Vanishing, which casts local legends Peter Mullan and Gerard Butler in a fresh interpretation of the 115-year-old Flannan Isle mystery of the lighthouse-keepers who disappeared without trace off the titular outcrop and Marilyn Edmond’s Connect, which tackles the emotive issue of suicide among young Scottish men.
Stephen Merchant will screen his leftfield directorial debut Fighting With My Family, charting the rise of trailblazing female (pro-wrestler) WWE superstar Paige and starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Florence Pugh, Vince Vaughn, Lena Headey and Nick Frost. Theatrical master Simon Sharkey will introduce Run Free, his story of teaching young boys parkour and physical theatre over a period of four years for the National Theatre of Scotland, Manifesto Jamaica and the British Council in a ghetto in Kingston.
As always, the festival will lay on its selection of crowd-pleasing ‘Special Events.’ Following on from last year’s zombie-infested treasure hunt that ended with a secret showing of Dawn Of the Dead at the Buchanan Galleries shopping centre and the unforgettable showing of The Thing at Braehead’s Xscape indoor ski-slope, this year will see Ghostbusters, Fight Club, The Blair Witch project and The Matrix (on its 20th Anniversary) shown in some of the most imaginative spaces the city can offer. There’ll also be the customary, fan-favourite ‘secret screening’ on February 27th.
Last but not least, the final weekend will see team Frightfest commandeer Screen 1 at the GFT for a marathon run-through of twelve blood-curdling cuts from the best of upcoming horror, cult and genre filmmaking. Thursday the 28th sees Jonas Åkerlund (himself the one-time drummer for Bathory) present Lords Of Chaos, based on the spree of black metal church-burnings and murders that stained the Norwegian cultural landscape in the 90s, before the bloody international smorgasbord (Here Comes Hell, Black Circle, Dead Ant, Freaks, The Hoard…) is wheeled out over the next couple of days.
It promises to be a fitting climax for a festival with a little more bite than most.
For more info visit www.glasgowfilm.org/glasgow-film-festival