Glasgow Film Festival 2009: Celebrating Cinema City

Gail Tolley looks at the highlights of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival.

Feature by Gail Tolley | 03 Feb 2009

During the golden age of cinema, when going to the pictures was as regular an activity as going to church, Glasgow was home to more cinemas than any other city in Europe, a feat that earned it the title of ‘Cinema City’.

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival will be striving to reclaim the title, not just through an exciting programme of films across more than 10 venues but also in quite a literal sense; the windows of several former cinemas will be the backdrop for a series of short and archival films allowing some magnificent buildings to relive their halcyon days.

Another highlight includes the UK premiere of Last Chance Harvey, nominated for several Golden Globes and the festival’s closing Gala performance. The main programme also features films from the American underground, the burgeoning Mexican film industry as well as a retrospective on the queen of elegance, Audrey Hepburn. We asked four individuals from Glasgow’s film scene what they were most looking forward to.

David Mackenzie, Film Director (Hallam Foe, Young Adam): “I am very happy that I will be in Glasgow for the GFF this year. And what better time to get lost in cinema than a wet, dark February. Here are a few things that caught my eye from this year’s programme

Good: I saw the play this is based on at Perth Rep when I was about 16 (over 25 years ago!) and I’ve never forgotten it. So I am interested to see how it makes it to the screen.

Bronson: The screenplay was written by a friend - I read it and it’s bound to be extreme. I’ve heard Tom Hardy’s performance is full on.

The Black Audio Film Collective These ‘80s trailblazers gave a lecture at my college. I remember Handsworth Songs being a surprisingly beautiful, poetic and poignant study of racial unrest. I would love to see their stuff again.

True Things: The Short Films of Miranda July (from the Shorts Film Festival) If her feature Me and You and Everyone We Know and her other work in other media are anything to go by, these shorts are going to be interesting.

Robin and Marion (from the Audrey Hepburn retrospective) A lovely post-heroic romance with Sir Sean in one of his best.

Infinite Space – The Architecture of John Lautner I spent most of last year in LA and I left with a significant appreciation of Lautner, so I am looking forward to this film by Scots director Murray Grigor. And anyway, I love just turning up at film festivals and going to the first thing I can get a ticket for. Happy viewing!”

David Mackenzie’s latest film Spread, starring Ashton Kutcher, will be premiering at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. He is also one of the founding members of Sigma Films.

Allan Hunter, Co-Director of Glasgow Film Festival: “If there is any Scot with a desire to make a feature film then they really need to see Elevator. Shot in just eighteen days in the lift of a Bucharest theatre, it was made for a mere 200 Euros by a director who taught himself how to make films. The premise is simple but instantly involving - a young couple enter a lift in an abandoned factory and find themselves trapped. The execution is taut and claustrophobic as we realise that nobody can hear their screams and there is no possible means of escape. Over a tight running time director George Dorobantu transforms this true story into a tense, palm-sweating thriller.”

Christine McMillan, Scottish Screen, the national development agency for the screen industries in Scotland: “The festival launch always finds people in our office nail biting or generally agonising over what to cram into two weeks. I try to choose films related in some way to Scottish Screen so I’m looking forward to New Town Killers by Richard Jobson and some more of the Great Scots stand which Scottish Screen is sponsoring this year. I like the sound of the Bill Paterson conversation event and The Divine Lady by Frank Lloyd, who I see as a bit of an unsung hero. I’d also like to see some short films and pick one from the Audrey Hepburn retrospective; the Bette Davis strand was great last year.”

Steve Slater, Senior Producer, Tramway, Scotland’s internationally acclaimed venue for contemporary visual and performing art: “I guess like most people movies hold a central place of reference, memory and inspiration in everyday life. For me a key factor in my movie going experience is that it should have a hook for my heart and soul, something that will move me deep inside and give me sustenance and enjoyment when revisited in memory. So in no particular order my top must see films in this mega – fest of films are:

True Things: The Short Films of Miranda July. A truly gifted artist and film-maker, July creates the sort of quirky off the wall realism that confronts us all everyday – if only we could step back and see life for what it is.

The Black Audio Film Collective: Handsworth Songs & Seven Songs for Malcolm X. Two undisputed classics of the documentary genre; these are films as timely and perceptive now as they were twenty-odd years ago.

Encounters At The End Of The World. Werner Herzog is for me among a handful of filmmakers who still challenge and involve the viewer in the process of film-making.

• And finally, for my inner Geek – Outlander – I just can’t resist the mix of Vikings and Aliens….My kind of Valhalla!”

Make sure you pick up The Skinny’s daily festival guide which will be available at all festival venues and on our website Glasgow Film Festival runs from 12th-22nd February. The full festival programme is available here.