Scott Wilson: Glasgow Film Theatre is part of the city's fabric and we should celebrate

CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look at the sucess of the Glasgow Film Festival and the city's cinematic gem, the GFT

FEBRUARY may hold the pinnacle event of the film calendar (the Academy Awards) but for people in Scotland it also heralds the arrival of the Glasgow Film Festival. Now 13 years old and spanning 12 days, 6,000 attendees enjoyed the glitz and the glamour on Glasgow’s Rose St back when it all began in 2005.

The festival has come a long way. Spread across the city and hosted in numerous venues, including a ski slope for this year’s showing of John Carpenter’s The Thing, the heart of the festivities has always been the Glasgow Film Theatre. That’s why news that the GFT saw its busiest week in its esteemed history during the festival is so heart-warming. 

It went from 6,000 people across the entire festival in 2005, to 12,500 through the door of one venue in seven days. Attendance across the board was up by one per cent, while free screenings and talks saw an increase in turnout of 27 per cent. 

When it comes to engaging with what is happening in our socio-political climate, multiplexes and chains don’t allow for the interactivity of independent cinemas and festivals. 

The festival itself is comparatively young to other big names that spring to mind. Its neighbour, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, was set up after the Second World War in 1947. In just over a decade the festival has attracted world premieres, acclaimed directors, renowned performers – and given 2017’s success, the sky is the limit.

Renfrew Street’s Cineworld may actually be reaching for the sky seeing as it holds the record for tallest cinema in the world, but when it comes to engaging with what is happening in our socio-political climate, multiplexes and chains don’t allow for the interactivity of independent cinemas and festivals. 

This year’s Audience Award was bestowed upon Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under my Burka, a feminist film banned in its home country of India. The Central Board of Film Certification’s reasoning includes that it is “lady oriented”, contains “sexual scenes” and is “audio pornography”. The Glasgow Film Festival audience chose to reward it.

Recent renovations at the GFT led to much of the main foyer’s closure for part of last year, and a portion of the expenses were covered through audience support. Not only is it a place to check out arthouse, foreign, specialist, event cinema, but it’s also a deeply emotional hub and community that cinema goers are connected to and invested in. We are only able to reward feminist cinema because we keep going to see the diverse films the GFT offers, both at the festival and its year-round programming.

The GFF may be the largest film event in Glasgow, but it’s far from the only one. Today marks the beginning of the Italian Film Festival at the GFT, a festival that is shared between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, and Inverness. Wednesday sees the start of the Glasgow Short Film Festival, which includes Blueprint, a quarterly programme celebrating films made in Scotland without major backing. 

There are always moral panics about the death of things we love. Video killed the radio star, and Netflix killed the multiplex. Except there is no substitute for a cinema and a festival that loves its audience as much as its audience loves it. 

There are always moral panics about the death of things we love. Video killed the radio star, and Netflix killed the multiplex. Except there is no substitute for a cinema and a festival that loves its audience as much as its audience loves it. 

Daily reports from the GFF show an event planned to cater to everyone, from those wanting to be first to see the next big thing, to those up for a screening in a secret location (M&Ds this year, complete with pre-show rides and candy floss); from a celebration of Scottish artistic achievement, to devoting itself to accessibility and inclusivity. The GFT was honoured with the Autism Friendly Award for its efforts in ensuring autistic visitors to the building can access and enjoy what it offers. It is the first cinema in the UK to win the prestigious award.

The Glasgow Film Festival’s success is no fluke, and for the Glasgow Film Theatre to experience a record number of visitors is a testament to its importance in the community and the love so many people have for it. 

Here’s to 2018’s event, yes – but here’s to each showing, each festival, each ticket sold. We are lucky to have the GFT. 

Picture courtesy of STV News

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