NEW films from Juliette Binoche, Julianne Moore, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Wim Wenders and Ben Kingsley head the line-up for the Glasgow Film Festival’s 10th anniversary celebrations.
Organisers say the quality of the programme is stronger than ever, with its line-up boasting more than 60 international prize wins and nominations, including several Academy Award contenders.
A major expansion drive will see a move into a clutch of new venues and the launch of the event’s first ever awards, months after secured a funding boost following years of steady box office growth.
Twenty different sites across the city will be used next month for the city’s booming cinematic celebration, which will boast 174 different events and get underway with the European premiere of new Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts comedy, While We’re Young.
More than a century of cinema-going heritage in Glasgow will also be honoured with a major exhibition at the Mitchell Library and the launch of a tailor-made short break in the city for film fans.
Glasgow’s rich architectural landscape and wide range of nightspots will be deployed like never before for special pop-up screenings and one-off “total cinema experiences”, while the festival will be running a strand of family films for the first time.
The programme features a roller disco extravaganza, a celebration of a classic computer game, a ballroom dancing spectacular and a 1980s karaoke party where the audiences will be urged to don power suits and shoulder pads.
The festival will be running an audience award, to be drawn from a pre-selected shortlist of 10 new films, while a “critics’ choice” list will also be based on the votes of the growing number of film journalists attending the event.
Among the new films getting UK premieres are Still Alice, the film about a woman battling the early onset of Alzheimer’s, which was won Juliette Moore an Oscar nomination, new gothic horror Eliza Graves, which Kingsley stars in alongside Kate Beckinsale and Sir Michael Caine, and Dustin Hoffman’s acclaimed new film Boychoir, about a choirmaster who takes an orphan under his wings.
Also screening are Iran-set political drama Rosewater, the directorial debut of Jon Stewart, host of the US satirical news programme The Daily Show, and Alan Rickman’s second turn behind the camera, A Little Chaos, in which he stars alongside Kate Winslet in a 17th century period drama set in the Palace of Versailles.
The chaotic early history of The Clash will be recalled in a new documentary about Joe Strummer, while the festival will unveil a new digital print of the classic Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense.
The festival will also be paying tribute to the roots of one of the city’s most popular music venues, the O2 ABC, which hosted Glasgow’s first ever cinematic screening in 1896, with modern-day acts film-makers and musicians joining forces for a one-off celebration.
One of the city’s best-known literary figures, William McIlvanney, will be appearing at the festival for the world premiere of a new documentary on the “Godfather of Tartan Noir”, while the cast and crew of Glasgow gangster film Small Faces will be reunited for a 20th anniversary screening.
New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis - star of Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider - is one of the early guests to be confirmed, for the European premiere of The Dark Horse, a biopic of a tortured chess champion, in which he has the lead role.
Also visiting will be one of Britain’ leading sound designers, Glenn Freemantle, whose CV includes the likes of Gravity, Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Weeks Later, composer Olafur Arnalds, who will give a live performance of his soundtrack work for hit drama series Broadchurch and director David Robert Mitchell, a rising star of the American indie scene, who will be unveiling his new teen horror It Follows, about a sexually-transmitted phantom plague.
The official programme - which has been expanded into a 12-day event for the first time this year - boasts 33 UK, 10 European and 11 world premieres. GFF admissions broke through the 40,000 barrier last year, with the final tally just over 4000 ahead of the long-running Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Allison Gardner, the festival’s co-director, said: “It is never just about the numbers for us. It’s great that our audience has been growing, but you can only do that if you keep up the quality of the events and the films, that’s the key for me. You have to stay true to the ethos of that.
“It’s definitely a lot easier to attract talent to the festival than it was five years ago, but we still have quite a small budget, so we have to be quite judicious in how we spent that money.
“We have to have the right guests, the right films for them and make sure they have a reall good time when they’re here. The warmth of our audience seems to really rub off on them.”
New venues being used include one of Glasgow’s hidden architectural games, the Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, which dates back to 1899 and was the only church to be designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
The festival - which is hosting a major strand of Australian cinema this year will also be expanding out to use Scotland’s biggest cinema screen at the Imax on the Clyde waterfront for the first time, where a special screening of the cult Mel Gibson favourite Mad Max 2 will be held.
The festival is paying tribute this year to Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman and a screening of one of her most iconic films, Murder on the Orient Express, will be held at the city’s 18th century Trades Hall, which was designed by another of the nation’s most revered architects, Robert Adam.
The new Drygate Brwery will be playing host to three special events - including a family-friendy screening of the classic Steven Spielberg adventure The Goonies, complete with a real-life treasure hunt, as well as a revival for Richard Linklater’s 1970s-set comedy drama Dazed and Confused, which will be screened after a roller disco.
The former box factory, in Dennistoun, which opened to the public just before the Commonwealth Games, will also be turned into an amusement arcade to pay homage to iconic computer gaming favourite Donkey Kong, which is the focus of a new documentary to be screened at the event.
Returning venues include Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where Scotland’s ballroom dancing champions will lead off the festivities before the Australian dance spectacular Strictly Ballroom is shown, and the Old Fruitmarket, where comic Paul Merton will lead a tribute to silent screen comedy legend Buster Keaton.
Ms Gardner added: “It’s all about getting people in the mood. You’ve got to give people ways in to enjoy the festival. For me that’s what it is all about - creating avenues of fun.
“We’ve got some great movies in the programme, that are really difficult art-house films. But they are not for everybody.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND PHONE APPS
“You’ve got to give people ways to look at your programme, make them feel engaged and that they’re part of it, and then they might choose something that is out of their comfort zone.”
The GFF’s move to embrace awards for the first time comes just four years after they were controversially dropped by the Edinburgh festival, only to be swiftly reinstated 12 months later after an outcry over a radical rethink of the long-running event.
Ms Gardner said: “Audiences are our thing, we love them, they are smart and they know their movies. We wanted to have an audience award, which will be for emerging film-makers, in the sense that they are all first or second-time directors.
“The programming team have selected a really good cross-section of films, from different countries, with an equal mix of male and female directors, although we didn’t set out to have a gender-balanced shortlist. I don’t believe in quotas. The films are there because of the strength of them.
“We’ve never really thought about having awards before. Awards usually have cash associated with them and we don’t really have any competitive elements within the festival or prize juries. We felt it had to work within the ethos of the festival.”
A planned refurbishment of the vast Cineworld complex, near the festival’s home at Glasgow Film Theatre, has ruled it out of this year’s programme.
This has led to a move to expand screenings out of the city centre for the first time, including the Odeon at the Quay and Cineworld at Parkhead. Three events will be held at the Imax, next to the Glasgow Science Festival, while the festival will be returning to the Grosvenor in the west end for the first time in six years.
The expansion plan for the festival - which attracted a regular 41,000 attendees last year - has been announced months after Glasgow Film Theatre, which runs the event, emerged as one of the big winners from Creative Scotland’s announcement on long-term funding. It secured a 164 per increase for the next three years, with a total grant of £1.9 million.
Ms Gardner said: “The extra funding we have received covers a three-year period, but does not apply to this year’s festival.
“However the main thing we will be doing is stabilising the infrastructure of the festival. We have run on a shoestring for a really long time and have done miraculous things on a very small budget, in terms of the breadth of the festival.
“Essentially we’ll be making sure it is sustainable in terms of taking it forward and being able to grow and plan things. It is very difficult if you spend half the year raising money.”
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s fantastic to watch Glasgow Film Festival continue to grow and continue to create innovative, world-class programmes.
“Thanks to Creative Scotland funding the festival is well placed to continue its success
well into the future. This year the festival feels both international and distinctly home-grown, showcasing dynamic Scottish film, music and visual art talent, and some of Glasgow’s most beautiful historic buildings, whilst also bringing some of the most exciting new films in the world to Scotland.”
Tickets for the festival, which runs from 18 February-1 March, go on sale on Monday.