GFF 2021: Our Picks

This year’s edition of the Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) may be taking place in the virtual space, but the programme is no less interesting and diverse for it; the Film Hub Scotland team present their picks of the myriad genres, countries and stories on offer at this year’s festival.


Nicola, FHS Manager

We may be denied the pleasure of GFT, Cineworld or CCA but Glasgow Film Festival will be bringing a host of cinematic delights into our own homes this February and I can’t wait.  If we already have access to great streaming and terrestrial TV could we really be as charmed or surprised as usual with the festival selections? You bet! Asked to select the four titles I’m most excited about, I came up with a list of 20, and that was me being strict; this is such an exciting programme! To cheat slightly, I’m not going to include any of the South Korean cinema which forms this year’s country focus at GFF; I could have comprised my list entirely from this fresh, exciting selection from a country which consistently produces great cinema.

I am really looking forward to two very different films by filmmakers who are new to me; A Brixton Tale and Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time both have romantic relationships at their core, but they promise to reveal darker, more shocking stories.

Iranian cinema is usually really rewarding and having won the Silver Bear at Berlin FF last year, I’m sure There Is No Evil wont disappoint. This film is an anthology of four stories, each about someone who must carry out the regime’s death penalty and I’m always interested in stories which question our morality and ask what you would do in such situations.

There are a wealth of great documentaries in the programme so it was tough to choose just one but I’m really looking forward to Big Vs Small which follows Portuguese professional surfer Joana Andrade and her work with Finnish free-diver Johanna Nordblad. The strength of these incredible women to become leaders in their extreme sports is so inspiring and I’m intrigued about how they have worked and learnt from one another.

Charlotte, Programme and Marketing Coordinator

City Hall
I’m a big fan of Frederick Wiseman’s humanist cinema verite, laying bare the minutiae of the American institution in both meticulous, keenly observed detail and the broad sweep of lived experience. To tell the myriad stories contained within, Wiseman needs time; 2018’s Ex Libris: The New York Public Library was over three hours long and City Hall clocks in at four and a half hours. The GFF screening offers us the chance to spend an extended period of time in the hands of a master documentarian, among the employees and citizens of Boston, Massachusetts, and I’ll be clearing my diary to join them.

Mekong 2030
An anthology of five short films speculating on the future of the Mekong River, the mighty life-giving source on which communities and livelihoods depend, across six countries. Filmmakers from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam contribute to the project with artistic visions of the past, present and potential climate cataclysms to come; images to interrogate the far-reaching effects of ruthless expansion and destruction of nature and tradition. I’m looking forward to diving into these works, particularly Anocha Suwichakornpong’s The Line.

Spring Tide
I’m intrigued to watch this female-led (and directed) drama following three generations of women in a Chinese family, starring Elaine Jin (who starred in Edward Yang’s Yi Yi and A Brighter Summer Day). Like recent familial saga So Long, My Son, this film looks to explore the tensions between tradition and modernity, family loyalty and a yearning for independence in contemporary China.

Sometimes we don’t know what we have until it’s gone, and this is certainly the case with live music and clubbing, both of which I had blithely taken for granted as I left my twenties. Now that staying in has become less an alluring option than a state-sanctioned lifestyle, Underplayed offers a chance to vicariously experience a summer festival season through the eyes and ears of female DJs and producers. Featuring Glasgow-based DJ Nightwave, Stacey Lee’s documentary peels back the layers of inequality and gatekeeping facing women in the music industry, and the rise and rise of the pioneers shaping a new scene.

Georgia, Knowledge and Network Coordinator

Iorram (Boat Song)
I’m excited to watch this because not only is it the first feature documentary entirely in Scottish Gaelic but being able to immerse myself in beautiful shots of the Outer Hebrides while travel is off the table will be a very welcome piece of escapism.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché
We are all familiar with the men in the UK punk scene but stories like Poly Styrene’s are the ones I want to hear more about. The film follows Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell unearthing her mother’s archive so I’m expecting a tender and real film – with a cracking soundtrack.

Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation
This sounds like an interesting insight into two key American literary figures and their sometimes rocky friendship, especially as the script is composed of the two writers’ words and is interspersed with archive footage too.

Adam, Member Support and Development Coordinator

Creation Stories
I’m always there for stories centred around flames that burn bright and brief, and one told by Irvine Welsh definitely piques my interest. Although I’ve never heard of Alan McGee, I’ve certainly having heard of the iconic British bands he launched the careers of like Oasis, Primal Scream. This story of a Scottish lad’s Icarus-like journey into the music industry sounds like a welcome refuge from lockdown life.

Riders of Justice
Black comedy. Mads Mikkelsen. Shocking violence. I’m sold on the revenge plot alone but adding in all these elements sure do make for a lethal concoction that I’m thoroughly anticipating.

A tightly wound central character that’s crumbling under the pressures of his life and work always strikes a chord with me (though I try hard not to think about why…) Watching them unravel is always a joy as I think it gives the audience a release that they rarely get to experience themselves, a journey that is both shocking and cathartic. Ben Whishaw has demonstrated his skill at playing a man on the edge before (no, not Paddington, in A Very English Scandal) and I’m looking forward to watching him take his character over the edge into a much darker place.