The GFF: an unlikely success

Published

Jean-Xavier Boucherat

On paper, Glasgow’s seven-year-old film festival really shouldn’t work. Consider the format: eleven days of mainly pre-existing titles at eight pounds a pop, screened across some decidedly unglamorous locations. That isn’t a reference to the structurally questionable Glue Factory, or the ‘workhouse-chic’ that SWG3’s got going on just now. Those two are fine, being full of the kind of urban decay that violently middle-class cinemagoers like myself get off on. No, I’m referring to a Cineworld that’s so bloody tall that it lets you see thirty years into the past as you enjoy a panorama of Glasgow’s deindustrialised north. And then at the warm heart of the festival, the GFT; a wonderfully self-conscious, pokey affair just yards away from some of the world’s most incessant buskers, and the ruins (quite literally the ruins) of the Art School.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out none of this matters. The festival announced yet another successive rise in box office admissions for this years run, hitting almost 35,000. As BBC Scotland’s Pauline McLean points out, that’s a serious step up from the 6,000 punters the inaugural 2005 event brought in. So, they must be doing something right, and I even have an idea what it might be. It’s not entirely unfair to say that a trip the mainstream cinema these days is more of a social occasion, something that you do with friends, and not to appreciate the craft’s nuances. The festival recaptures the screen for the city’s cinephiles, and when they’re all together, it’s a warming experience – even if they do all sit as far away from each other as possible.

This year’s event followed some of the same patterns utilised in previous years, with a particular focus on Fred Astaire as well as German cinema, the inclusion of the FrightNight mini-fest (featuring the return of the torturous lo-budget sci-fi Death Watch, shot largely in Glasgow). The Film and Music fest was back too, featuring a particularly brilliant performance from italo-horror junkie Umberto, who accompanied the Spanish grindhouse ‘classic’ Pieces with a live synth-drenched soundtrack. Below you’ll find some highlights from across the eleven days.