The Glasgow Film Festival, Scotland’s largest film festival, turns 20 this year – older than some of the volunteers who will help to make it happen – and there’s lots for film fans to look forward to. The full guest line-up has not been announced yet, but we know that it will include Viggo Mortensen (best known for playing Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films), who will participate in a special in conversation event. There will also be a series of great films from the past which are free to watch, plus the return of the ever-popular Glasgow FrightFest, a special focus on Czech cinema, and much more besides.
2024 is a landmark year for the festival
As well as being the festival’s 20th anniversary, the festival is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT), where its main events are held, plus the 85th anniversary of the Cosmo Cinema, which the building was initially known as. The Cosmo was the first arthouse cinema to be built in the UK outside London, and many older Glaswegians have fond memories of spending time there.
The free films being screened at this year’s festival were originally released in the years when each of these events took place. They include the classic political satire Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the 1939 version of Wuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, the much-loved Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein and sensational Pam Grier vigilante actioner Foxy Brown. There’s also a chance to see the school-set neo noir Brick and watch Joaquin Phoenix play Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line.
Famous worldwide, the UK’s leading horror film festival FrightFest, will be presenting a series of newly released films including small town chiller Last Straw, the musical Irish folk horror tale All You Need is Death and monster comedy The Invisible Raptor. Some longstanding fans will be travelling up from England to see these films, saying that the Glasgow event, by dint of being smaller and more intimate, is the best place to capture the unique atmosphere of FrightFest’s early days.
This year’s festival showcases Czech films
The festival’s country focus this year is on the Czech Republic, and it will be screening a mixture of classics and new films for audiences to enjoy. These include the country’s official 2024 Oscar submission, We Have Never been Modern, which focuses on an anti-Communist resistance group and the mysterious death of an intersex baby, and science fiction thriller Restore Point, which explores a dystopian future world in which people who die prematurely can be brought back to life based on the most recent upload of the contents of their minds. Among the other titles in this strand is Věra Chytilová’s Daisies, a story about two young women’s wild misbehaviour which was banned for many years because of its feminist political undercurrents.
The festival will open on 28 February with Love Lies Bleeding, a tale of obsession, violence and romance which stars Kristen Stewart as a gym employee who falls for a bodybuilder played by Katy O’Brien. The film recently had its first screening at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and was enthusiastically received. It’s not to be confused with Bleeding Love, also part of this year’s selection and a favourite of festival director Allison Gardner, which features Ewan McGregor as a dad taking his daughter on a road trip.
International talent – something for everyone
Among the films that have already enjoyed success on the international film festival circuit are Germany’s Oscar submission The Teachers’ Lounge and Turkey’s, About Dry Grasses (which also focuses on a teacher). Both are very good, but unsettling – if you’d rather watch an inspirational story about a teacher who transformed the lives of his students, check out Mexico’s Radical. Also worth looking out for are Tolstoy adaptation The Vourdalak, a pre-Dracula vampire tale, and the heartwarming US-set adventure Riddle of Fire, which sees three children with an irreverent attitude to adults – and to personal safety – embark on a series of unlikely adventures.
Other festival highlights include a very different piece of work from Star Wars star Daisy Ridley, Sometimes I Think About Dying, which sees a depressed office worker trying to overcome her habit of self-sabotage to pursue a possible romance. The G sees a Canadian grandmother set out on a quest for revenge, and takes an unabashed look at older women’s sexuality, while Yugo Sakamoto’s Baby Assassins 2: Babies focuses on the other end of the age spectrum in a wild and joyously silly tale full of stylised violence and silliness. There’s also classic Patricio Guzmán documentary The Battle of Chile, which explores the rise of Augusto Pinochet through footage daringly shot on the streets at the time – it’s a brilliant piece of work, and at three and a half hours long, it will certainly give you your money’s worth.
The festival has always made a special effort to support Scottish talent, and it will close this year with Janey, a documentary focusing on comedian Janey Godley. Directed by John Archer, the film follows the controversial performer on her final live tour following a terminal cancer diagnosis. There will also be an opportunity to see a restored print of the tour-based documentary Billy Connolly: Big Banana Feet. A real feast for film-lovers, this year’s Glasgow Film Festival will also be full of special events with opportunities to meet the filmmakers or even develop filmmaking skills of your own. It runs from 28 February through until 10 March – which also happens to be Oscar night.
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