Brian Ferguson: Glasgow Film Festival a major event

Directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter. The 2014 programme has events across Glasgow. Picture: HEMEDIA
Directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter. The 2014 programme has events across Glasgow. Picture: HEMEDIA
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If THE definition of success is a bit of old-fashioned box office meltdown, then Glasgow Film Festival’s arrival as a major event was sealed on Friday morning.

I was among those struggling with the seemingly simple task of buying tickets online, tearing out what little is left of my hair at the slowness of the system and regular breakdowns.

With a bigger, bolder programme, huge early demand for tickets and sold-out signs being swiftly hoisted for a number of events, there seems little doubt the event will make a quantum leap in popularity in its tenth year.

Wandering around Kelvingrove in the city, my mind drifted towards the special film festival screening of Young Frankenstein at the art gallery, and its “Monster Mash” themed ball, at the same venue next month. The grand setting is about as far removed from the scenario of shivering at an outdoor screening in what passes for summer most years in Scotland.

Kelvingrove is just one of a string of intriguing pop-up venues being deployed this year, with the “street food cinema” screenings at the old fishmarket building at the Briggait proving another hot ticket, along with the transformation of the city’s old glue factory into an amusement arcade to show cult sci-fi film Tron and a secret horror screening in the bowels of Central Station.

But, for me, the Kelvingrove event also epitomises the key selling points of the GFF. It is imaginative, ambitious, unpretentious – and highly unlikely to take itself too seriously. That is not to say there is anything remotely lightweight or flippant about the GFF. It is underpinned by a love of film as well as respect for the city’s cinematic history, with the 40th anniversary of the Glasgow Film Theatre, which launched the festival a decade ago, and the 75th anniversary of the old Cosmo cinema, its forerunner, at the heart of the programme.

Among more than 60 UK premieres, it has captured a string of big new films, particularly those with all-important Scottish credentials, at a time of huge debate over the industry’s strength.

With Sunshine on Leith and Filth both missing from Edinburgh last summer, the GFF has delivered major new films like Starred Up, the hugely acclaimed return of Glasgow-based director David Mackenzie, and Under the Skin, the eagerly-awaited arrival of Scarlett Johansson as an alien femme fatale roaming Scotland.

While a number of special guests, like actor John Sessions, have been confirmed, and there is a fair degree of expectation over which film-makers and stars may attend, that has been carefully managed by the festival.

And possibly its biggest selling point, certainly for the ticket-buying public, was underlined in no uncertain terms by co-director Allan Hunter when he declared that the festival “is and will always be an access-all-areas event”.