The Glasgow Film Festival goes from strength to strength with admissions up again this year. I enjoyed my follow-up festival visit after 2015 and this time I got more of the festival buzz because I was able to visit the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), only a short distance from Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). The CCA has more space and a bigger bar/café area. Its two screening rooms have good projection facilities but the seats are hard and the front rows don’t have raking. Fortunately the three films I saw at the venue were all engaging and my backside survived the experience. The bar/café is an important focal point for a festival and GFT has sacrificed what was once its restaurant to create a (very impressive) third screen. The result is that there isn’t really anywhere to relax between screenings apart from the tiny café upstairs. The renovations to GFT continue and we are promised a restoration of the staircase. Even so, the CCA is a welcome retreat that I hope will remain in use.
I’m not sure that the films I saw in 2016 quite matched the very high standards in 2015. I was only there for three days and only able to sample a small selection so that’s perhaps not a useful observation. I did value the Argentinian Cinema strand and chance meant that four out of my eleven screenings were from Latin America which was good. I was also pleased to be able to catch an archive screening of a Julien Duvivier film. The three best films I saw were all documentaries. The Pearl Button, Miss Sharon Jones and Speed Sisters were my picks. The first and the third are on release in a few weeks – don’t miss them! GFF is also a festival celebrating popular cinema and, though it’s not my thing, I’m always intrigued to see the range of interesting venues that have been selected and the enthusiastic responses evident in the festival’s twitter feed.
I was pleased to see that GFF had managed to put a film from HOME’s Hong Kong crime season into the festival – and to get Andy Willis to introduce the screening. GFT and HOME are two of the most important UK cinemas outside London and it would be good to see more link-ups like this. This year GFF also introduced an Industry strand, again well-received I think, and I’m sure there is scope to expand this element of the festival, especially given the demand for a Scottish studio facility and the general upsurge in interest in production in the Glasgow area. The more GFF grows, the more pressure there is on Edinburgh’s struggling festival. Perhaps I’ll give Edinburgh a go, but I’ll certainly be back in Glasgow.