Glasgow Film Festival announces 2017 programme

Glasgow Film Festival reveals its bursting programme for 2017, with over 310 separate events and screenings, including new films from Ben Wheatley, Terrence Malick and Paul Verhoeven

Article by Jamie Dunn | 18 Jan 2017

When a festival reaches number 13, the superstitious out there might brace themselves for the worst. Scanning the brochure for the 13th edition of Glasgow Film Festival, however, suggest there’s no need to be concerned. The UK’s third largest celebration of cinema once again serves up a heady mix of films and events – over 310 of them – where household names rub shoulders with emerging talent, from Irish coming-of-age opener Handsome Devil (15 Feb) to closing film Mad to Be Normal (25 Feb), an RD Laing biopic starring David Tennant as the visionary psychiatrist.

Filmmaking talent attending GFF

Tennant will be attending as the curtain goes down on the festival, alongside Mad to Be Normal’s director, Robert Mullan. Other guests confirmed for this year’s GFF include Terence Davies, who brings A Quiet Passion, his bold and beautiful study of American poet Emily Dickinson; Ben Wheatley, with his typically stylish and uproarious new thriller Free Fire (two of its stars, Michael Smiley and Jack Reynor, will also be in tow); and legendary producer Christine Vachon (Carol, Far From Heaven, Boys Don’t Cry). The team behind goofy comedy Mindhorn – writers-stars Julian Barratt and Simon Farnaby, and director Sean Foley – will also be in town.

2017's most anticipated arthouse films at GFF

As ever, the GFF programme represents the opportunity for local film fans to get a first glimpse at some of 2017’s most exciting arthouse titles. There’s Isabelle Huppert giving a jaw-dropping performance in Paul Verhoeven’s explosive and unsettling black comedy Elle. A similarly intriguing actor-director collaboration is on display in Olivier Assayas’ strange and cerebral supernatural thriller Personal Shopper, in which a never-better Kristen Stewart plays a shopper for the stars who also sees dead people.

A knockout female lead is also reason to recommend Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, with Sonia Braga magnificent as a woman refusing to leave her apartment block to make way for a soulless real estate development. The latest work from Cristian Mungiu, Graduation, which won the Romanian new wave star best director at last year's Cannes, also screens, as does the new film from Terrence Malick, who continues his recent industrious streak with Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey.

There are also some notable UK premieres in the mix, such as I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s masterful documentary based on writings by the great James Baldwin, and two films that will be fresh from their world premieres at the Berlin Film Festival: Cate Shortland’s Berlin Syndrome and The Other Side of Hope from Finland’s deadpan poet par excellence, Aki Kaurismäki.

If you prefer your Finnish fare to be more bittersweet, there's Juho Kousmanen’s evocative romance-cum-boxing movie The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, which marks the young Fin writer-director out as an exciting new talent. Other gems to look out for from greenhorn filmmakers include Florence Pugh's Victorian tragedy Lady Macbeth; tense US-Mexico border crime thriller Transpecos, from Greg Kwedar; and the intriguing sounding Bodkin Ras, Kaweh Modiri’s ethereal blend of documentary and fiction following a young man on the run in the remote Scottish town of Forres.

Pop-up and site-specific cinema events

GFF’s reputation for inventive site-specific screenings is well known, and they continue to delight this year with some inspired pop-up events. Perhaps the most deliciously apropos is their 35th anniversary screening of John Carpenter’s The Thing on Snow Factor’s real snow slope. There’s also special screening of Cajun noir classic The Big Easy at the Barras Art and Design centre with post-screening gig from Hoodou Bayou, and 80s fave Dirty Dancing at Òran Mór plays complete with a dance workshop so that you can lift your partner above your head without doing your back in.

As previously reported, there are also great special screenings of The Princess Bride (with sword fighting), Secretary (with a fetish club night) and The Lost Boys (in a secret location) planned.

Local talent at GFF

There’s plenty of space been made in the programme for local talent too. We’ve heard great things about Edinburgh-based filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach’s debut feature The Levelling, an atmospheric family drama centered on a young vet who returns to the family farm in Somerset after the death of her brother. And we’re always keen to see the new film from the prolific Mark Cousins, whose latest, Stockholm, My Love, is described as a love-letter to the Swedish capital. There’s also a new doc from David Graham Scott, which sees the filmmaker bonding with an ageing hunter from Caithness moors in End of the Game, despite the fact Scott is a vegan.

A couple of revival screenings of work by Scottish institutions are also worth noting: a 20th anniversary screening of John Byrne’s The Slab Boys and a very rare big screen outing for Bill Forsyth’s first (and best) American movie, Housekeeping, the Gregory's Girl director’s dreamy adaptation of Marilynne Robinson's acclaimed novel of the same name.

GFF's film and music strand

As ever, GFF also offer up a tantalising blend of music and film in their Sound and Vision strand. As well as the eagerly anticipated Lost in France, which comes complete with supergroup concert comprised of Alex Kapranos, Stuart Braithwaite, RM Hubbert and Emma Pollock, who all feature in the documentary, there’s intriguing David Byrne project Contemporary Colour.

Contemporary Colour sees the Talking Heads frontman celebrate the US high school culture of colour guard routines – you know, where flag spinning meets rhythmic gymnastics – with a little help from the likes of St Vincent and Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock, who, along with Byrne, provide new musical commissions for the film. We also love the sound of Raving Iran, which follows two DJs risking their freedom to play house music in Tehran, where western music is banned.

More GFF highlights

But stick a pin in the programme and you’ll find many other delights. There’s tender stop-motion animation My Life as a Courgette; the German take on AL Kennedy’s comic novel Original Bliss; wild psychological thriller A Cure for Wellness, which heads up the annual FrightFest; Celtic Soul, in which Canadian actor and Hoops fan Jay Baruchel makes a pilgrimage to Parkhead; and Divine at her most outrageous in John Waters’ hilarious Multiple Maniacs. And we’ve not even had a chance to mention cult movie strand Nerdvana, country focus Canada, the femme fatale retrospective, a celebration of the great Japanese star Toshiro Mifune, the always electric Crossing the Line section, or the ten films from emerging filmmakers that will compete for this year’s Audience Award.

As GFF co-director Allan Hunter says, “the programme is bursting with must see new movies.” We recommend you grab a copy of the brochure and get stuck in.

Glasgow Film Festival runs 15-26 Feb

Follow all The Skinny’s coverage of Glasgow Film Festival over at and be sure to pick up the CineSkinny, the official GFF magazine, during the festival at GFF venues.

Tickets for Glasgow Film Festival go on sale 10am on 23 Jan. The full programme is available on the Glasgow Film Festival website. Further guests attending will be announced nearer to the festival date – so watch this space