Glasgow Film Festival 2015 Highlights

One of the main goals on my 15 things for 2015 list was to get out and about, particularly to festivals and by myself. January was filled primarily with Oxford trips and chilled weekends so going to Glasgow Film Festival this weekend was a great break of routine.

I decided to take a day off work on Friday, Megabus it up to Glasgow nice and early and have a weekend filled with films, a little bit of touristy stuff, and a catch up with my favourite Scotsman who I met at Camp almost 3 years ago. I had an absolutely amazing time, and not least because of the films. Here’s a mini-guide to all of the films I saw on the Friday of the film festival…

Marshland was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© Film Factory Entertainment

Marshland or La Isla Minima (2014)

Glasgow put their films into categories so that you know if you pick films from different categories you’re getting a variety of films. Marshland was from the Window on the World group. Most likely because it’s a Spanish film and a really good one at that. The brochure describes Marshland as “True Detective set in the Andalusia swamplands” which is pretty spot on.

It’s the beginning of the 1980s and the oppressive Franco era in Spain has just ended. Two teenage girls have disappeared in the Spanish countryside/Swamplands. It’s up to Pedro and Juan to solve what’s quickly turning into a thrilling murder mystery case. The vivid colours of the marshlands, the detectives who might not be all they appear to be and the misogyny of the Spanish people make this a deeply layered film with all the frolics and far-fetched-ness you would hope it to have.

Technical problems

Also, a big shout out to projectionist Malcolm. Apparently, the screening the night before mine had to be cancelled because there were significant technical problems, but after a short delay and a shaky start, I’m so glad the festival powered through to let the film have one of only two showings at the festival. That’s one of the things I love about film festivals. When the co-director made that announcement, everyone was so willing to clap for Malcolm and just enjoy the festival and made no bones about the late showing. Just a room of real cinema lovers with respect for the team effort that goes into getting something amazing put in front of us to be enjoyed and loved.

Catch Me Daddy was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© Film4

Catch Me Daddy (2014)

I couldn’t go to a British film festival without watching a British independent film. From the unsurprisingly named Best of British collection, this bleak and shocking visual affair comes from music promo director Daniel Wolfe and brother Matthew. Set on the cinematic Yorkshire Moors, Pakistani teenager Laila has run away from her family to live with her white boyfriend Aaron in a Caravan. Her dad has threatened to kill her should she not stop seeing the boy. He then hired two white men to find her as well as a gang of Pakistanis led by Laila’s brother Zaheer.

One of the most powerful things about this film is Laila and Aaron’s relationship. However, you know they’re probably not going to stay together forever. The way there are with each other is genuine, but it’s a relationship built on fear and naivety. Their lack of options coupled with excessive rowing leads to an often glazed outlook on the seriousness of their situation.

The sheer amount of drugs and violence in this movie can get overbearing and got quite annoying. Like, seriously, does a character have to light up EVERY SINGLE MINUTE? And to some people, the ending would be powerful and disturbing. And it really was, but to me, it was an easy exit to a film that got so violent and bloody there was nowhere else for it to go anyway. But the rest is worth it, really worth it.

Wild Tales was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© Warner Bros

Wild Tales (2014)

A contender (but probably not a winner) to the Best Foreign Film category at this year’s Oscars, Wild Tales is made up of 6 separate stories with the thematic link of revenge and the serious flaws of Argentinian society. Each short film is so absurd and absolutely hilarious, and the flaws of its characters often end up being fatal. The best of the stories, however, has to be the beginning and the end. They played out like a surprising sketch show and didn’t allow the audience to guess the outcome of the tale for one second. A fantastic stress-busting film, it made my Friday night at the festival.

I was really, really excited about the films on Saturday. I’d found a mix of categories: CineMasters, Stranger Than Fiction and a GALA film. It was set up to be a pretty exciting day…

The Tales of Hoffmann was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© Rialto Pictures / Studiocanal

The Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

A remastering of one of Powell and Pressburger’s less well-known films, the BFI National Archive spearheaded a 4k restoration of the visual masterpiece including the addition of previously unseen, erm, scenes. This film for Opera was supposed to do what The Red Shoes (1948) did for ballet. And while the last thing you can call the film is “gripping” you cannot fault its visual prowess. It cements P&P as auteurs. It’s also well-loved by Scorcese. So, you know, you can’t fault it too much if it’s got the big guy’s approval…

Hoffmann is a man who has very much been unlucky in love. The film documents Hoffmann recounting the tales of his lost loves in a tavern one night whilst his latest squeeze is finishing up a ballet performance. Amazingly sung and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the directors were able to focus on the visuals with the audio pre-recorded. It’s nowhere near my favourite P&P film, and I probably won’t be watching it again in a hurry. But you can’t knock the attention to detail and the spectacle of the film, certainly nothing was done by halves.

Tales of The Grim Sleeper was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© HBO / Sky Atlantic

Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014)

I have to be honest and say I don’t tend to watch too many documentaries. Barely any, really. Though I am very aware there are some excellent ones out there. Ones I would really, very much enjoy. So coming to a film festival with the aim of watching a variety of films, I had to put a doc in my schedule. And I’m really glad it was this one.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper focuses on a serial killer who murdered black women in a particular LA neighbourhood. They were nearly always prostitutes, or at least they were all addicted to crack. This was from the 1980s right up until his arrest in 2010. He was never suspected nor was anyone else ever arrested in connection to these crimes. I think around 12 murders are confirmed as being by the same person, but it’s estimated that there are about 100 murders in connection.

Documentary storytelling at the deepest level

It seems strange now, that the media dubbed the murderer “the grim sleeper” because it was originally thought that there was a 4-year gap in the murders. But now it’s thought not to be the case at all. I know. Shocking, right? How can someone, who actually seems to have been quite sloppy in his murders and barely covered his tracks, manage to get away with this for so long? I think you know the answer.

The filmmakers go right into the heart of this community. Risking their lives, but all the while committed to finding out more from the people who knew the man in question, Lonnie Franklin, to ensure that all sides of the story were told. This is a smart documentary with a loose plotline. While the documentary concentrates on one particular horrific story, the real horror is that something exactly like this could happen again and again. Police corruption and extreme prejudice, poverty and prostitution in black communities in the States are rife. And it’s not going to get any better any time soon.

Still Alice was one of the films I saw at Glasgow Film Festival in 2015
© 2014 – Sony Pictures Classics

Still Alice (2014)

A GALA entry, this was the most high profile film I saw at the festival. I couldn’t wait to see it. I chose this over a Q&A with Alan Rickman and his new film A Little Chaos (2015). Sorry, Al, I know you’re not supposed to judge a film too much by its trailer but, well, your trailer looked shit. Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning turn (finally, as we found out on Sunday!) as a Linguistics Professor with early-onset Alzheimer’s was astounding and deeply upsetting. It’s not often I cry in films anymore, but I just couldn’t help but be drawn into the deep sadness and frustration that Alice was going through.

Her decline was very visual, the cinematography shifting to be behind Alice as we slowly lose the person she was. She’s supported with a great supporting cast, none of whom can match the heavyweight of Moore’s performance of course, but that’s to be expected. Overall I was thoroughly entertained and my eyes substantially awakened.

Did Glasgow Film Festival 2015 live up to the hype?

I had an amazing time in Glasgow! I actually can’t believe I enjoyed it as much as I did. But then why should I be surprised that two days straight watching films should be any less enjoyable than it sounds?! I think at my next festival I’ll attend more Q&As and events I wouldn’t be able to participate in at any other time. Because realistically I would be able to see some of these films another time, though film festivals are paramount in offering the cinema-goer countless experiences that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.

And that’s my highlights post from Glasgow Film Festival 2015! Have you attended the Glasgow film festival or watched any of these films? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Pingback: Everybody’s Talkin’ 2 – 27 (Chatter from Other Bloggers) | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective

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