Trying to decide what to see at Glasgow Film Festival? Well it starts this Wednesday and runs for a week and a half, so it’s high time you got your highlighter pen out and started circling wildly. The programme is loaded with a range of films, from local to international, from mainstream to art house. And of course there are plenty of docs. GFF asked us to recommend some, so here are our choices, in no particular order.
End of the Game by David Graham Scott
David first met Guy Wallace when he made the Bridging the Gap film Arcadia (2009), which was set on a hunting estate deep within the Northern Highlands, and focused on a protest by locals against wind turbines. For End of the Game, David and Guy are reunited. An unrepentant relic of the colonial era, Wallace has been a soldier, a mercenary and a tracker. He now lives in splendid isolation on the Caithness moors but has one remaining ambition – to return to Africa and kill a Cape Buffalo. Being a vegan, and never shy to use himself in his films, David becomes the perfect foil for Wallace. For David, shooting can only be about shooting the film, and with both men hunting after a rare thing, they can’t help but bond despite their considerably different ethics.
Here Come The VideoFreex by Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin
The story of a group of American journalists who, armed with the first portable video cameras, set out to document the emerging counterculture of the late 60’s and present it to the mainstream. Following a lengthy restoration process of the group’s archive, the film was sewn together and the material that emerged makes up an important historical document. The VideoFreex were present for many of the most symbolic moments in American mid-century history, attending anti-war and Women’s Liberation marches as well as Woodstock, and they gained a rare interview with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton shortly before his death at the hands of Chicago Police. Where their reporting differs from other material you may see from the era, is that they were absolutely part of this culture of radical thought and action. Their interviews are peer-to-peer, nonjudgmental and genuinely curious. You can certainly draw the line from the VideoFreex straight through to Vice’s current monopolisation of the counterculture.
Where to Miss? by Manuela Bastian
Where to Miss? follows a young woman who is fighting back. She is fighting against the pervasive belief that being a woman out alone at night means she is available for sex; fighting against the threat, and history, of violence used to keep women indoors. She has chosen a simple and rather elegant weapon: she wants to be a taxi driver in Delhi. This is no easy ambition, and she argues her way through her father’s objections (and blows), a sneering driving school, and a new husband who wants her to stay with his parents in a village in the North of India. Beautiful camerawork, and a compelling main character whose story is both revealing of Delhi now, and whose quest is universal – Devki wants to be the agent of her own destiny. It is director Manuela Bastion’s first feature, from the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg and there are signs of a lack of confidence at times – she doesn’t quite trust the main character to pull us along with her, and makes use of voice pops and chapters and heavy handed music. However, she always chooses the right moments to turn on the camera, building increasing tension and a compelling story: a powerful story with a compelling young woman at its heart as well as behind the camera.
Angry Inuk by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Picture this; you’re getting stuck in about your bacon roll when you’re suddenly faced with the image of a man eating the brain straight out of a dead seal… still hungry? Our ability to whisk neatly pre-packed meat off the supermarket shelf has made many baulk at the idea of having to hunt and kill to sustain our communities and livelihood but for the Inuit people traditional ways of life remain strong. Filmed over the course of nine years, this documentary feels like it’s being beamed straight from the heart of Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, a declaration of love and pride for her people and their way of life. A small group fight against millions to show the sustainability of and necessity for seal hunting, their lives swinging precariously in the balance at the mercy of EU law and the influence of global animal rights groups. Restrained, simply told and quietly impassioned, Angry Inuk is a pertinent reminder that the further removed we are, the less likely we are to question, understand and empathise; things which seem more important now than ever before.
Tickling Giants by Sara Taksle
Charismatic, courageous and charming, Bassem Youssef is one of the most famous figures in the Arab world: a doctor by training, he then laid down his surgical gloves to become a full-time comedian and TV host. Unfortunately, practising public political satire under Egyptian military dictatorship comes not without its obstacles, and Tickling Giants tells the inspirational story of Youssef and his bright team of collaborators as they fight for their right to freedom of speech until, inevitably, the threat and fear of continuing under the current Egyptian rule becomes just too great. Youssef is an utterly compelling character, and it’s not surprising that he has been included in Time Magazine’s list of the “world’s 100 most influential people”. In 2014 he moved to America and now writes his own series called ‘The Democracy Handbook’. It’s somewhat unsettling to watch this film if you’ve already seen his 3rd episode: One Trump to Rule them All. It’s not too big a leap to draw parallels between the leader from whom he fled and the one under whom he now finds himself…Let’s hope he isn’t forced to move on again any time soon.
Bad Rap by Salima Koroma
There’s been a wealth of interesting hip hop documentaries coming out recently. From Netflix’s Hip Hop Evolution to Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton about Stones Throw records to Fader’s recent short, Destiny, about New York’s Princess Nokia. Bad Rap however investigates a side of this musical history that has been little explored; Asian Americans’ influence and long-standing participation in the culture. Snoop Dogg’s manager Ted Chung gives an insightful recount of how Filipino and Korean Americans have been involved right from the birth of hip hop and from there we move into the present day and follow a group of young Asian American rappers trying to break into the mainstream. The most interesting aspects of the film are where it stops to examine the marketing aspect of the rap industry and how racial stereotypes continue to play a large role in what is considered ‘good’ and ‘bad’ rap (something that Taiwanese-American documentarian and hip hop head Eddie Huang has been speaking about for a while now so it’s great to see the discussion starting to pick up traction). Oh and fyi there’s a great cameo towards the end, not sure how they got him…maybe they called him on his cellphone, late night …
Still there? Great! Don’t forget to look out for artist/filmmaker Douglas Gordon at GFF with I Had Nowhere to Go on 18 Feb. He was part of our The New Ten Commandments film in 2008, with The Right not to be Tortured.
We’re looking forward to these and more at this year’s festival!
Glasgow Film Festival is one of the leading UK film festivals. See the best of local and international cinema from 15 to 26 February 2017.