Alistair Harkness: Glasgow Film Festival thriving

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ONE of the most heartening things about covering film for The Scotsman over the last decade has been the way the Glasgow Film Festival has grown from a modest showcase to a thriving highlight of the film-going calendar.

That it has managed to do so without losing sight of what has always made special – creating a convivial atmosphere in which to watch and discuss movies – just makes it more special.

Scarlett Johannsen in Under the Skin. Picture: Contributed

Scarlett Johannsen in Under the Skin. Picture: Contributed

GFF has always struck me as a film festival with integrity, one that understands its audiences and seems to select films not because of who they will attract to the festival, but because of the sense of excitement the films themselves might attract.

Not that GFF can’t tempt top tier talent to attend: in pop culture terms you don’t get much bigger than Joss Whedon, who brought proceedings to a close last year with his Shakespeare adaptation, Much Ado About Nothing.

But it remains a festival that understands that the audiences buying tickets for the films are the only VIPs that really count. So while it would be wonderful if Wes Anderson attended the opening gala of The Grand Budapest Hotel, the festival won’t get off to any less of a fun start without him.

That organic, community centric feel – enhanced by the way the festival has, over the last few years, become an umbrella organisation for a series of specialist mini festivals operating within, and alongside, the main festival – is also summed up by the pointed absence of the word “international” from its moniker.

Though it has always demonstrated a commitment to screening a strong programme of international films – and this year’s choices look especially good – the important point is that GFF has become an opportunity for locally based audiences to encounter those films for the first time. And what better way to symbolize that than by closing the tenth GFF with Jonathan Glazer’s remarkable Under the Skin – an internationally renowned film set in Glasgow.


10 highlights from the Glasgow Film Festival programme