Posts Tagged ‘Glasgow film festival’

Elaha (2023)

Dir/Wri: Milena Aboyan Co-Wri: Constantin Hatz | Cast: Bayan Layla
Derya Durmaz, Nazmi Kirik, Armin Wahedi, Derya Dilber, Cansu Dogan, Beritan Balci, Slavko Popadić, Hadnet Tesfai, Homa Faghiri, Rebér Ibrahims | Drama 110′

Being a woman in a Kurdish community is all about secrecy and subterfuge according to this impressive feature debut from Armenian born writer/director Milena Aboyan who shows the ongoing societal pressure for Kurdish women and girls in modern-day Germany. Men – and particularly mothers – hold sway in this ‘multicultural’ environment where ironically the women seem to be the ones enforcing age-old traditions.

Elaha, 22, is dreading her forthcoming marriage to her overbearing Kurdish boyfriend because she will have to prove she is a virgin – and she is not. Although the film explores Elaha’s options to re-instate her ‘innocence’ what it really deals with is the tremendous pressure of conforming to traditional ideals in a tight-knit, often hypocritical, set-up.

Naturally we empathise with Elaha who is thoughtfully played by newcomer Bayan Layla. But she is by no means a straightforward character who is playing her fiancé off against her ex-boyfriend to whom she feels considerable attraction, for obvious reasons. She desperately wants to conform to her family’s wishes and doesn’t want to bring shame on her mother and father but on the other hand she feels the freedom her ex boyfriend accords her is far more appealing. The overriding impression we get in the scenes with her fiancé – who is stuck in a ‘Madonna Whore’ complex – is one of fear and oppression: not the basis for a happy relationship, let alone marriage. By the same token, Elaha does not want to be ostracised from Kurdish society or lose the love and support of those she holds dear.

Aboyan and her co-writer Constantin Hatz deal sensitively with the issues involved introducing contrasting characters, in the shape of Elaha’s teacher and counsellor, who call into question these old-fashioned values. Elaha finds their opinions persuasive, although they fly in the face of her family’s traditional stance. Her teacher points out the seemingly ludicrous situation Elaha finds herself in but Aboyan never paints her mother and father as unlikeable; they are simply victims of an outmoded way of life in the context of modern day Germany. This is a visually appealing and engaging film that raises some important questions about family and society as a whole and women’s role within it. @MeredithTaylor

Elaha will also preview on International Women’s Day (8th March) at the BFI Southbank, as part of their Woman with a Movie Camera strand | In cinemas UK & Ireland on Friday 26th April 2024


The Hermit of Trieg (2022)

Dir: Lizzie MacKenzie | UK Doc, 79′

In these days of social media and lives in the fast lane Lizzie MacKenzie’s debut documentary is a breath of fresh air.

It’s all about Ken Smith, a 70 year old loner who has spent the past four decades in a log cabin he built overlooking Scotland’s Loch Treig. Growing up in Derbyshire, Ken had a accident in his mid-20s that would change life forever. A random attack left him with critical injuries: he would never walk or talk again. But Ken refused to give up and eventually he regained his mobility and some power of speech in another lease of life. Travelling to Canada he trekked to the forests of the Yukon where the peace and solitude convinced him to head for the most remote corner of Britain on his return.

Still reasonably fit and active he enjoys the tranquility of the open countryside. The cabin has no gas, electricity or running water but Ken has adapted to the lores of the natural world living off fish from the loch and growing his own vegetables. He must also acknowledge that old age and death may come sooner than expected but is this such a bad thing in the days of overpriced care homes and endless medical intervention?.

A simple story of self-determination and sustainability develops into a visionary film about living life within the bounds of nature and embracing our fate. MT




Glasgow Film Festival 2022

Glasgow celebrates its 18th annual film festival from 2-13 March. Expect to see UK premieres of the latest international arthouse films. This year’s celebration will open with The Outfit, starring Oscar winner Mark Rylance and close with Murina! an intoxicating Slovenian coming of age drama that won a top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

So if you’re heading to Glasgow here’s a selection of  films worth looking out for:


Leonard (Mark Rylance) is a master tailor who left England to run an unassuming little shop in the windy city of Chicago. He now makes beautiful, hand-crafted garments for people who want the best and are willing to pay for it. His most loyal customers are a clan of vicious gangsters. They do say clothes maketh the man. Then one night there is a knock on the door. A favour is requested. A line is crossed. And all hell breaks loose. We are thrilled to open Glasgow Film Festival 2022 with the UK premiere of this gripping tale of deception, double-dealing, murder and some very fine threads.


Ari Folman’s latest animation is a playfully evocative take on the tragedy of the Anne Frank (Emily Carey) whose final months are reflected through the eyes of her gadabout muse and confidante Kitty, vividly brought to life here by Ruby Stokes.



Memories define us connecting the present with the past. In his latest drama – a first in English – Belgian writer and director Bouli Lanners plays a man whose romantic history is rewritten when he suffers a stroke.

NITRAM (2021)

Justin Kurzel blows us away with this scorching arthouse psychodrama commemorating the Port Arthur tragedy, exploring the milieu that created a murderer (Martin Bryant) who would kill 35 people on that fateful day in 1996. Not since Snowtown has a film engendered such utter terror through its central character – the titular Nitram – played by a coruscating Caleb Landry Jones – as a fully formed enfant terrible who lives with his long-suffering parents (Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia) in the sleepy seaside town.


Life in Southern Spain hasn’t changed for God fearing and deeply suspicious rural communities locked away but dying to burst out from landlocked Extremadura, especially the womenfolk. Or at least that’s the impression we get from Ainhoa Rodriguez deliciously dark and delightfully observed feature that unfolds with a cast of non-pros on the widescreen and in intimate – often voyeuristic – closeup.


Inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s rags to riches hero who works his way through the Comédie Humaine, this lavish period drama charts a personal and literary advancement in post revolutionary France in a way that resonates with the media world of today, the clear voice of Balzac providing a guiding narration.




Minari (2021)

Dir/Wri: Lee Isaac Chung | Cast: Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn, Alan S. Kim, Will Patton, Noel Kate Cho | Drama

Lee Isaac Chung’s endearing portrait of a Korean-American family, Minari won the hearts and minds at this year’s Sundance, taking home both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and Yuh-Jung Youn went on to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

The pace is gentle and upbeat as Chung unspools his autobiographical immigrant story – mostly in English- that feels real in its depiction of rural American in the 1980s (filmed in Oklahoma) then quite a difference place than the albeit modern Korea of his birth. Brimming with warmth and a touch of nostalgia, this is a universal experience of adjustment but the details are personal, imbued with the Korean sense of humour, and always delivered with a lightness of touch.

Originally starting off in California, farming-minded father Jacob (Steven Yeun) decides that the wide open spaces of Arkansas may be a better option for his family of four — mother Monica (Yeri Han), daughter Soonj (Noel Kate Cho) and son David (Alan S. Kim) — and they soon settle into a prefab with fifty acres in the hope of building up  a small-holding. With this idea in mind, Jacob and Monica take a job in the agricultural sector separating male and female baby chicks (or “chicken sexing”).

Monica is the only one who finds this new life a strain, the kids are only too happy to amuse themselves with plenty of land to play on. Grandma’s arrival helps to lighten things up providing a welcome buffer zone between Monica and Jacob – who are now barely talking – and helping with the kids who are the focus with their cheeky antics and naturalistic performances.

Jacob teams up for company with the local Bible-fearing eccentric (Will Patton) who spends a great deal of his time channeling Jesus, dragging a full-sized wooden cross along the main road. Feeling back-footed in his attempts thus far in providing for the family, Jacob’s business hunch finally shows signs of potentially coming good. But dramatic heft and gentle tension is provided when little David is in need of emergency medical treatment. No NHS to help here in the wilds of rural America. And although Minari doesn’t come through with a satisfactory conclusion to all the issues it raises, charisma and a real feelgood factor carries it through, along with winning performances from an impressive cast. MT

Now on release nationwide from 17th May | Oscar Winning for Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn |  Glasgow Film Festival 2021





Iorram | Boat Song (2021) Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Dir: Alistair Cole | UK Doc 96′

The first ever film in Scots Gaelic and none the worse for it, the native tongue – which has possibly only a year to live in its native setting – adding considerable atmosphere and poignancy to this impressionistic and informative portrait about fishing past and present before globalisation, climate change and Brexit decimated the stock. This film will certainly be meat ‘n bread (and possibly fish?) for dear old Nicola Sturgeon who is very much the poster girl for her country’s fishing industry. Livelihoods are at risk, not to mention the Scottish cultural heritage.

Back in the good old days fishing was the main industry up in the Western Isles around Barra, Vatersay and Cape Wrath, over a hundred miles North of Glasgow where the film screens at this year’s festival. The inhabitants of the islands today are observed on land and on water going about the business of fishing, while the ghostly voices of their ancestors tell stories and sing songs about life at the mercy of the sea.

In the mid-20th century, with the advent of portable sound recording, researchers started visiting the Outer Hebrides to preserve the voices of the islands for future generations. These were the first recordings to capture the oral history of Scottish Gaelic culture which stretches back thousands of years, and once covered the whole of Scotland, but now survives mainly in the island communities off the west coast.

Iorram is a second feature documentary for Alistair Cole whose work explores the link between language and the environment, as here where the evocative seascapes of the Outer Hebrides light up every frame. Music and fishing go very much hand in hand with being a sailor, songs and shanties keeping up the spirits and camaraderie during long or arduous forays into the blue yonder, and award-winning folk musician Aidan O’Rourke provides the film’s entrancing soundscape. Interestingly the word for rabbit sounds similar to the Spanish ‘conijo’.

Gaelic was once spoken across most of Scotland, but sadly Scottish Gaelic has now only around 11,000 habitual speakers, mainly in the Outer Hebrides, according to a recent study by the University of Highlands & Islands. Ironically, interest in Scots Gaelic is booming, with Gaelic schools flourishing in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and world interest in learning the the language has come via the internet and a ‘phone app (Duolingo has more than 560,000 registered learners worldwide signed up to Scots Gaelic).

Alistair Cole works as his own DoP to create stunning 4k observational footage of island life today. While the sailers prepare their creels to set out for the lobster and langoustine catch, and these action sequences are combined with imaginative land and seascapes captured on the widescreen. Meanwhile the film’s narration is composed of archive sound recordings of Gaelic speakers in the Outer Hebrides from the 1940s to 1970s reminiscing about the past when fish were so plentiful that the boats were often out all summer, and the locals time on land was spent busy with the harvest and looking after livestock. Holidays were never even considered, let alone taken. Other filmed footage shows local woman going about the meticulous preparation of the prized catch destined for restaurants all over Europe and these contrast with the lilting voices of the past sharing magical tales of fairies, mermaids and patron saints of the islands keeping the folklore alive.

Over the past decade, the School of Scottish Studies Archives has digitised and restored these recordings. Cole has selected the most emotional and lyrical voices in exploring the often fraught relationship between the fishing community and the stormy Atlantic Ocean.

World Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on February 28th 2021, followed by a virtual UK theatrical release from March 5th 2021 via the Modern Films ( in collaboration with key independent cinemas across the UK, and other partner organisations.




My Favourite War (2020)

Dir.: Ilze Burkowska-Jacobsen; Documentary; Animation by Svein Nyhus; Latvia/Norway 2020, 80 min.

Latvian director/writer Ilze Burkowska-Jacobsen tells the story of her childhood growing up under Soviet occupation. What shines through is her romantic yearning for the countryside in a self-censored biopic enlivened by delicately drawn animations, interviews and documentary footage.

Young Ilza tells her story of dislocation and dual alliances (voiced by Mare Eihe): growing up in the ancient town of Saldus in Courland where her father was an active propagandist of Soviet values – dying in a car accident when Ilze was seven. Her mother was much more critical of the State, but toed the party line – even joining – to help her daughter advance to university and study Journalism, as her father had done before her.

Meanwhile Ilze’s grandfather, deported to Siberia for opposing the collectivisation in 1930s, was fearful of his granddaughter turning to communism, sending her to play outside while he was listening to a banned Western Radio Station. Ilze was unaware of what was going on still fervently believing in the founder of the Soviet State, Lenin: who hands her an ice cream while she is out for a drive with her parents. Later on she returns home empty-handed after waiting to buy butter, because a veteran of WWII has snaffled the last pack, not needing to queue.

At a meeting of the Soviet Youth organisation “Young Pioneers”, Ilze meets her life-long best friend Ilga who tells her to pull up her socks so as not to spoil the picture of uniformity. There is WWII footage about the Cauldron of Courland, and Ilze and her schoolfriends are literally forced to worship a certain Jacobs Kunders, who scarified himself in battle to save his comrades.

Ilze does everything to get a place at university; and thanks to her efforts she is invited to the most prestigious “Pioneer” camp on the Crimea. Towards the end of the Soviet Union it emerges that Ilze and others were forced to take up shooting lessons in honour of the war heroes adorning the school walls. The class acted in solidarity, unanimously asking to be relieved from the gun exercise. Instead they are assigned to a First Aid course, and this successful class action make a great impact on Ilze.

There are some odd sequences: a Nazi soldier, buried in a mass grave, is seen on the wall of a block of flats under construction, the neighbours taking it as a sign from God and a bad omen that construction is doomed. Another animation shows a WWII Nazi plane flying from Latvia to Berlin with its cargo of cows falling out in mid-air.

And although Ilze stays true to the Soviet cause in secondary school, Ilga becomes increasingly sceptical and this questioning attitude shows up in her final essay which is rejected due to its questioning Soviet norms. Ilga, who is seen often with Ilze in the few life interviews, felt so suicidal after her rejection she nearly killed herself. But Ilze’s mother leaves for the countryside to run her own farm, opting out of a system she does not believe in and could endanger her daughter’s future (My Mother’s Farm).

Somehow, My favourite War is two films in one: the most interesting being Ilze’s stance in acquiescing to the Status Quo, and here the animation sequences are often hilarious. Then there is Ilze second-guessing herself, and drifting off into a very uncritical Latvian history lesson. These two halves don’t make for successful whole, the adult Ilze is much less interesting than her contradictory young self. AS




Limbo (2020)

Dir/Wri: Ben Sharrock | Cast: Amir El-Masry, Sidse Babett-Knudsen, Vikash Bhai, Ola Orebiyi, Kwabena Ansah, Kenneth Collard | UK Drama, 103′

A group of refugees fetch up on a remote Scottish island in this artful and darkly amusing comedy drama lampooning the migrant crisis.

The common denominator is their single, masculine status. If they were married with kids they would be placed in a stylish new-build in the centre of Edinburgh, or even London. But it’s a grim lot for the single male of the species who arrives in these rain soaked islands looking for a home. And the Scotts director shows the same sober look and lugubrious humour as Pablo Stoll’s cult classic Whisky (2004) or Aki Kaurismaki’s Berlinale winner The Other Side of Hope (2017). However, his visually imaginative style and symmetrical framing also make this a sumptuous treat.

The migrant crisis is certainly no joke. In fact it has become somewhat of a political hot potato as the lost and disenfranchised arrive here hoping for the legendary streets of gold and find instead cold tarmac, wind-lashed landscapes and little to comfort them in their time of need. Sticking out like proverbial pork pies at a Jewish wedding these likeable and nice-looking men are jeered at and taunted as they make their way through chilly seascapes in search of something to keep their minds occupied in the inclement weather.

The painterly piece unfolds in the sparsely populated Western Isles of the Outer Hebrides (North and South Uist) under smoky grey clouds and gentle hilltops stroked by softly wavering grasses and purple skies. “If you’re lucky enough to be here in Winter you may experience the Northern Lights” says their English teacher as he instructs them on the past imperfect, asking for an example of its use in a sentence: one bright spark suggests: “I USED to have a home until it was destroyed by allied forces”.

Essentially a series of carefully crafted episodes – each playing out like an individual comedy vignette – the story follows Syrian Oud musician and war victim Omar (Amir El-Masry) who left his older brother still fighting; Afghani Farhad (Vikash Bhai) and two West African brothers suffering from sibling rivalry. Wasef (Ola Orebiyi) and Abedi (Kwabena Ansah) bicker the hell out of the squalid damp-ridden cottage the men share, warmed only by a two-bar electric fire. They all have convincing backstories and are ridden with guilt and worry about the families they have left behind. Poor internet coverage makes matters worst.

Writing and directing this second feature, Sharrock calls on his own life experience working in a refugee camp in the Middle East where he was inspired by the sorrowful characters he met, all hoping against hope for a positive outcome. Here at least they get “cultural awareness” lessons hosted by a well-meaning couple, Helga (a strangely underused Sidse Babett-Knudsen (The Duke of Burgundy) and Boris (Kenneth Collard). But the even-handed narrative eventually gives way to a grudging mutual respect with their pale-skinned hosts who recognise they are well-educated and versed in the ways of the world. And the tone darkens when a crisis arrives for the sheep farmers during a snowstorm, and Omar is required to pitch in.

The sheep incident unleashes a disturbing magic realist reverie for Omar, transporting him back to his roots in scenes that hint at a gravitas the film does not possess compared with the levity that has gone before. But despite the slight tonal flaw Limbo is a highly accomplished and thoughtful film that cements Sharrock’s place as a promising British talent on the international scene. MT

In Cinemas from 30 July | The International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) Award: CAIRO FILM FESTIVAL 




Gunda (2020)

Dir: Victor Kossakovsky | Wri: Ainara Vera | Doc, Norway 93′


13th Glasgow Film Festival | 15 – 26 February 2017

Creative Scotland is the impetus behind the city’s annual celebration of cinema with GFT, CCA, Cineworld and Grosvenor cinemas participating to host films, alongside unique pop-up cinemas everywhere from snowy ski slopes to the Barras. Now one of the largest film festivals in the UK – this year’s extravaganza will feature over 310 separate events and screenings, showcasing over 180 films including 9 World and International premieres.

IMG_3267The standout World premiere this year has got to be MAD TO BE NORMAL (26 February), starring David Tennant as infamous Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing. The festival will also showcase the World premiere of BENNY (22 Feb), the story of local hero Benny Lynch, widely considered the greatest boxer Scotland has ever produced. Fusing archive footage, animation and interviews with contemporary boxing stars, the film charts the rise and tragic fall of the Gorbals-born people’s champion. Other films to look out for are Aki Kaurismaki’s THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE, Kate Shortland’s BERLIN SYNDROME and Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (left) which has its World premiere at Sundance 2017.

More Glasgow sporting legends get the big screen treatment in the International Premiere of Celtic Soul (26 Feb), as Canadian actor-filmmaker Jay Baruchel (How To Train Your Dragon) embarks on an epic trip to Celtic F.C’s Parkhead to see his beloved Hoops in action.

Glasgow Film Festival audiences will also be the first to catch European premieres including: the charming road movie Folk Hero & Funny Guy (20 and 21 Feb) starring US indie favourites David Cross and Alex Karpovsky and Steven Ellison’s (aka Flying Lotus) dark and twisted directorial debut KUSO (24 Feb), featuring exclusive new tracks from Aphex Twin and Thundercat.


The daytime cultural wing of Glasgow’s legendary Sub Club – host a special screening of Raving Iran (19 Feb), an exhilarating look at DJs Anoosh and Arash continually risking their freedom to play their beloved dance tunes in Tehran, where Western music is banned, plus there’s the UK premiere of Contemporary Color (18 and 19 Feb), a glorious celebration of the US high school culture of colour guard routines – where flag spinning meets rhythmic gymnastics- featuring new musical commissions from David Byrne (Talking Heads), St Vincent, Ad-Rock and more.

TRUE NORTH: New Canadian Cinema

In the year that Canada celebrates the 150th Anniversary of Confederation, Glasgow Film Festival focuses on exciting new and re-discovered voices in Canadian cinema, sponsored by Telefilm. A celebration of the great diversity of talent in Canada’s national cinema, the TRUE NORTH strand includes: Aletha Arnaquq-Baril’s controversial documentary study on the seal hunting ban and the detriment it brings to the Inuit community Angry Inuk (2916) (23 and 24 Feb); BOUNDARIES (20 and 21 Feb), Québécois filmmaker Chloe Robichaud’s wry satire on the exploitation of natural resources; Phillipe Lesage’s nightmarish looks at the horrors of childhood stalking the mind of sensitive young Felix in The Demons (2015)  (22 and 23 Feb) and a chance to step back in time and marvel at hipster Toronto in the 1950s with a rare screening of Sidney J Furie’s trailblazing A Cool Sound From Hell (1959) (25 Feb).


Alongside all the hot new premieres, Glasgow Film Festival brings some classic gems back to the big screen. A DANGEROUS DAMES strand salutes the alluring femme fatales of film noir – from Lana Turner in the definitive version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1981) (19 Feb) to Kathleen Turner’s unforgettably steamy debut in BODY HEAT (1981)  (24 Feb). All Dangerous Dames screenings are free to attend.

Toshiro Mifune is one of the few Japanese to become a truly international movie star. Audiences can relive some of his collaborations with Akira Kurosawa including SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) (21 Feb) and STRAY DOG (1949) (17 Feb) and learn more about the man himself in the Scottish premiere of MIFUNE: The Last Samurai (16 and 24 Feb), narrated by Keanu Reeves.


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