GFF19 #18: Reflections on Glasgow Film Festival 2019

I enjoyed a busy five days in Glasgow this year with a total of 16 screenings. The highlights for me were four francophone films, all directed by women and each in different ways exploring aspects of family melodrama. I know this isn’t everyone’s favourite genre but I enjoy it greatly and these four films were good examples of what can be achieved. Two of the films were part of the Belgian cinema strand in the programme and I also enjoyed Those Who Work, a Swiss francophone film starring that great Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet. So, out of 16 films a total of six good francophone films confirms the importance of French as a cinematic language.

Given the move to try to improve the profile of female filmmakers I should note that five of my 16 choices were directed by women and three of the others featured stories which were essentially about a central female character. Overall this year I didn’t see any ‘duds’. Everything I saw had something going for it. On the other hand, nothing blew my socks off and inspired me as happened last year. I was pleased to have the opportunity to see Alice’s Restaurant and Medium Cool on the big screen. Morning archive screenings in GFT1 with Allan Hunter are now a thriving strand in the festival and ‘1969: End of Innocence’ was a popular choice. I think that there have been quite a few Hollywood archive strands and it would be good to see some other major industry archives being utilised. I remember a packed screening in GFT3 for the Julien Duvivier film Panique (France 1946) back in 2016. More like that would be good.

This year I managed one film each from Argentina, Japan, China and India – but I think that was partly a matter of careful selections. It isn’t possible to have all the major industries represented via several titles every year and in previous years there have been more Latin American films and more of the others in other years. But programmers need to be vigilant to keep this kind of offer in the festival programme.

I only go to Glasgow for the more specialised films and there are many other events each year built around Hollywood screenings of favourite/cult films. This year I did get to taste the flavour of Frightfest and that was an interesting experience. The ‘local heroes’ strand is very important – as it should be – and I note that Glasgow FF is increasing its commitment to an Industry strand. If you haven’t been to Glasgow FF, I recommend it. It’s always on at roughly the same time, so next year download the programme and have a look. Finally, a shout out to the new Ibis Styles hotel near to Glasgow Central station which proved to be very congenial.

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