Tag Archives: film

Glasgow Film Fest 2015 – Memphis (Tim Sutton, 2013)

In amongst the airy, ethereal atmosphere of Tim Sutton’s Memphis, there lies promise. An idea that could make this film work in a sort of bizarre amalgamation of Beasts of the Southern Wild and Gummo. Both of those are blinding and beautiful depictions of the deep south that work in their sprawling style. Memphis gets unfortunately caught in between these genres with very little to engage with.

A struggling blues musician arrives in the city of Memphis, exploring its streets and meeting its people who force him to do better by telling him his voice is a gift from God.

Memphis has the laudable talent of looking and sounding sublime. Often, the film is engrossing through its ability to wash over you; visceral and seductive as if you’re in that searing summer setting. It follows the life of a musician inspired partly by the star, the talented Willis Earl Beal in a sort of cinéma vérité style, depicting his almost nonchalance attitude with such an intensity the film itself becomes non progressive. Its finer moments lie in the scenes where Beal isn’t centre stage. Uproarious church sermons, young childhood friendships and a mother with children, telling stories of the city she grows up in. The glimmers of potential here are, unfortunately, overshadowed by a character and script that’s a little too obtuse.

Atmospheric depictions of life in a cultured city are the minor beauties in Memphis – a film otherwise a little too underdeveloped to be engaging.


Memphis plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on Thursday 26th/Friday 27th February. More information here.

GFF 2014: 20 Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville, 2013)


Rarely does a documentary let you be both in awe of and feel pity for its protagonists. In 20 Feet from Stardom, director Morgan Neville does just that. While at some points these men and women make you want to stand on your cinema seat and sing to the heavens, he has a great ability to truly make you realise what life has been like for them.

They stand ever so slightly to the back of the stage, their voices filling records and auditoriums but never truly being the one with all the attention. They are the backing singers of today and of history, brought stunningly to the forefront in this rather rambunctious documentary.

Regardless, 20 Feet from Stardom is a glitzy, powerful affair in giving an in-depth look into the world of backup singers. Focusing on the most famous women and men over the years from Darlene Love to The Waters, it backs up the voice with some fond memories of the past, featuring interviews with Stevie Wonder and Mick Jagger to name a few.

It does something that a lot of documentaries fail to do: inform. Incorporating stock footage from the past that will be nostalgic to many, it also delves into the current lives of some of music’s most forgotten voices.

20 Feet from Stardom is a rushing, sass-filled affair that is impossible not to love. Get on top of your seats, ladies and gentleman: you’re in for a real treat here!

20 Feet from Stardom has its UK release on March 28th

GFF 2014: Starred Up (David Mackenzie, 2013)



I woke up this morning still to find myself in the confined space of Starred Up. Isolating, dangerous and cutthroat, it’s a realistic outing into the prison genre after years of being near destroyed by hyperbolic stories and substandard acting efforts (we’re not pointing fingers, Mr. Dyer).

Surpassing the young offenders institutions, Eric winds up a high risk inmate at a British prison. His 19 year old mind still racing from the outside world, he struggles to understand how this incarcerated world works. As he meets his fellow inmate father for the first time in years, tensions heighten to an unbearable levels as he forms a rivalry rather than embracing the only recognisable figure.

Credit is most due here to the sublime Jack O’Connell, whose lead performance as Eric is absolutely astounding. His work here embodies a vindictive, violent figure who veers on the edge of being so infamous he becomes vulnerable. O’Connell’s undeniable skill almost effortlessly melds into this role, as if he’s been waiting to play Eric his whole life.

What makes Starred Up so different from its prison depicting predecessors is the fact that its solid script veers into the shocking but never overdoes it. The characters feel familiar, yet not clichéd. This is Jonathan Asser’s work. His first feature outing as a screenwriter is due almost entirely to his work as a prison therapist before he wrote the film. The very little that seems predictable is perhaps a true depiction of what prison life is really like, and we as an audience have been the ignorant ones after all.

Starred Up is a vindictive, stark piece of British cinema that refuses to let go days after you’ve seen it. Cold and haunting, you will never look at prison dramas in the same way again.

Starred Up has its UK release on March 21st

GFF 2014: Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, 2013)



As the sun sets over the water in Stranger by the Lake, you are reminded  how cinema can greatly embody multiple genres. Presenting itself as an erotic story of lust and danger, it simultaneously ventures in to something voyeuristic and uncomfortably mysterious.

During a hot summer, gay men swarm to a secluded lake that they use as a cruising spot. Surrounded by woodland and with the water stretching far across the lake, Franck, a young seemingly impressionable man who’s fresh out of work, spends his summer meeting men with whom he simply talks, and to others bares his sexual being. When he meets Michel, an attractive, golden skinned strong swimmer, he falls desperately in love with him. But when he witnesses him from the forest drowning a former lover in the lake, Franck is forced to choose between his twisting mind and his throbbing heart.

The film never leaves the boundaries of the lake and the forest, enclosing you and capturing you for its entirety. What by day feels like a glorious, sunny beach turns torrid and unsettling as the moon rises, captured beautifully by the film’s great cinematographer, Claire Mathon. The script, whilst simple, is achingly effective. The characters, each valuable and stunningly realised by their respective actors are what carries this sometimes sinister love story. Franck, played by Pierre de Ladonchamps, teeters cautiously on the edge of lust and infatuation, engulfed almost entirely by Michel (Christophe Paou), whose caustic, stark performance makes you realise exactly what Franck is falling for.

Credit is due to Stranger by the Lake’s brilliant director, whose alluring use of symbolism and minimalism has created a story that, while at times sexually gratuitous, has become an exemplary piece of daring French cinema.

It may be uncomfortable territory for many, but for those who can let go of tabooed thoughts for just a short while will be washed over and drowned by Stranger by the Lake.

GFF 2014: The Double (Richard Ayoade, 2014)



If there’s a topic that Richard Ayoade tackles with impeccable skill, it’s infatuation. In his break out hit, the 2010 coming-of-age drama ‘Submarine’, he created a film about two young teenagers hopelessly in love but surrounded by break up and melancholy. In his latest feature, The Double, he once again creates an unrequited infatuation, but never veers into the obsessive.

It tells the story of Simon, a timid man who day by day is ignored and forgotten by his co-workers and mother. As all he yearns for slips from his hands, a man walks into the office. His name is James. Confident and daring, he could not be more different from Simon, apart from the fact that he looks identical to him. As James teaches Simon the ways to entice the woman he loves, James carries out a deceitful act of sabotage that drives Simon to insanity.

The Double presents itself as a ‘comedy’ on paper, and bar the few and far between lines of dark humour, it could not be further from it. Haunting and psychotic, it verges on this fine tightrope of insanity that drags you with it as it teeters off either side. It’s a bizarre turn for Ayoade, whose comic background would suggest he couldn’t make a thriller as fine as this, but to his credit he does it seemingly effortlessly, and with a sensational amount of skill. In fact, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that Ayoade’s effort here makes him one of Britain’s best modern directors. It lends itself, through its harrowing score and masterful cinematography, to the horror greats of the seventies and eighties. It’s bizarre, at times terrifying but with each and every frame drags you into the pit of your seat.

The performances, particularly Jesse Eisenberg as the both shy and vindictive leads of Simon and James, are scarily good. Eisenberg gives a career defining performance. The dual aspect of it also gives Mia Wasikowska, as the Simon’s love interest, a character that’s both caustic and charming. She’s a fine young actress and gives a performance that’s one of her own personal bests. There are numerous other cast members that crop up over the ninety minute runtime, both Wallace Shawn and Noah Taylor make great appearances as delusional co-workers, and Ayoade has even squeezed in roles for his Submarine alumni Yasmin Paige and Craig Roberts too.

The Double owes just as much to those in post production as it does to those during the filming of it. With an impeccable British direction, great international performances and a script and score to die for, The Double is truly one of the most enticing, interesting and genuinely excellent films of the year so far.

The Double plays at the Glasgow Film Festival on both Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd February

Film shot in Glasgow to be screened at Sundance

Scotland at Sundance Film Festival

Two films supported by Creative Scotland , Exchange & Mart and God Help the Girl, will receive world premieres at the Sundance Film Festival, 16-26 January 2014 at Park City, Utah.

God help the Girl will be screened in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and Exchange & Mart has been selected from more than 8,000 entries to screen in the Shorts Competition.

God Help The Girl is a musical feature film, written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, lead singer of the group Belle and Sebastian. It was produced by Barry Mendel, with Co-Producer Carole Sheridan of Singer Films and Associate Producer, Beth Allen of Forest of Black providing on the ground support for the film in Scotland. The film stars Emily Browning, Olly Alexander and Hannah Murray.

This is the debut feature of Stuart Murdoch who aspired to tell the story of “a better summer, or at least a summer when something happened. It happened to a boy and a girl in a city roughly the same size and population of Glasgow. Perhaps the canals were a bit grimier, the high-rise buildings taller, the streets emptier when you needed them to be, and the beat clubs busier than the ones around here. But on the whole the city was this one.”

According to Barry Mendel, “It’s a simple story – about the brief moment after you’ve realised what you want to do with your life, before your dream settles into becoming your job, when you’re filled with enthusiasm, meeting like-minded friends and the possibilities are endless.”

The film was shot, edited, scored and mixed in Glasgow over the course of 2012-2013 and will be released in cinemas around the world in 2014 following its world premiere at Sundance on the 18th January 2014. See: www.sundance.org/festival/release/2014-festival-us-world-and-next-films-announced

Starring Ewen Bremner and recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Grace Chilton and Tania Gardner, Exchange & Mart is a short about a boarding school girl who comes of age in the most unlikely of circumstances – during a self-defence exercise. The short is written and directed by Cara Connolly, co-directed by Martin Clark and produced by Phoebe Grigor and Maeve McMahon. Coming from a background in documentary filmmaking, Cara and Martin previously co-directed The Boccia Brothers, which screened on BBC2 in August 2012.

On being selected for the Sundance Film Festival Film, the team said:

“We are thrilled that our film has been selected for Sundance 2014. We had amazing commitment from our fantastic crew, and were honoured to work with such a great cast. We would like to thank Scottish Shorts for their help and support. Team Exchange & Mart can’t wait to be standing in the Utah winter snow. Skiing for Scotland.”

The film received support through the Scottish Shorts programme designed to discover and develop writers, directors and producers. The programme is a collaboration between Hopscotch Films and DigiCult, with funding from Creative Scotland.

Head of Development & Executive Producer at DigiCult Paul Welsh, said:

“Cara and Martin’s Sundance selection is an absolutely fantastic result for a Scottish documentary team working in narrative fiction for the first time. With the right level of investment and focused support, Scotland can generate world class filmmaking talent. Exchange and Mart is further proof of this at a key time in the development of filmmaking in the country

How to make a short film in one weekend

Four hundred filmmakers taking part in the Glasgow 48 Hour Film Project left the Trongate 103 Arts Centre on Friday night on a mission to make a short film in just one weekend.  Filmmakers have 48 hours to script, rehearse, film and edit a short film which includes the elements of specific character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre, the details of which were announced at last night’s kick off meeting.  Over 40 teams are taking part in the project as the 48 Hour Film Project’s worldwide tour sets down in Glasgow this weekend, and their films will be screened next week over three consecutive evenings at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

While the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) has been running in Edinburgh for 4 years this is the first time it has been run in Glasgow.  “After four years, over 100 films, and over 500 participants in Edinburgh, we decided it was time to take our show on the road” says Glasgow and Edinburgh 48HFP Producer Sam Goldblatt.  “Each year Glasgow folk would come through for the Edinburgh competition, so finally we decided to go west, and bring the competition to the good people of Glasgow.  We’ve been amazed at the level of interest.  I dare say that registration filled up faster than in Edinburgh.”

While there are rules to follow and the specific elements to work with, the restrictions can be liberating – instead of talking about making a film, the film is actually made.  And despite the time restrictions, the quality of work is high.  “You would be stunned at the high standard of films,” Goldblatt says.  “We have a real diversity of participants, from first-time filmmakers and under-16s to professional broadcast filmmakers who work in television.  The strict 48-hour time period focuses the mind and often brings out the best from these creative artists.  Judges from major television production companies and film festivals often tell us that our films are just as good, if not better, than other shorts that they have seen at film festivals.”

Up for grabs for this year’s Glasgow winner is a trophy, the chance to have your film screened at the official 48HFP Awards Weekend Filmapalooza 2012 this year in Taos, New Mexico and some screenwriting software.  Not only that, it’s a platform towards greater things.  Goldblatt mentioned Lee Archer, whose team’s film ‘Travel Plans’ won Best Film at Edinburgh in 2008 and was premiered at the international awards in Miami.  “Lee is now a professional commercial television director.”  He added, “We are delighted that the winner of the Glasgow competition will receive free airfare and accommodation to attend Filmapalooza 2012, an amazing opportunity for career development and international experience.”

Accolades aside, it sounds like a great weekend for those filmmakers who take part.  “My favourite films,” said Goldblatt, “are those by first-time filmmakers, where you can tell they had the time of their lives making the movie.  The screenings are also really fun and inspirational.  It’s very special for young filmmakers to get their film shown on the big screen in front of a huge audience.  In Edinburgh, the screenings often sell-out completely, so I can’t wait to share these special nights with Glasgow.”

The Glasgow 48 Hour Film Project started last night for the teams taking part and their films must be completed and dropped off on Sunday night.

Premiere Screenings will take place at the Glasgow Film Theatre, 12 Rose Street, Glasgow G3 6RB at 6pm on October 11, 12 & 13.

The Wrap Party takes place at The Art School, 468 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3LW between 7 – 11pm on October 17th.   The awards are announced between 8 – 10pm.

Media Masterclasses in Glasgow

Students from throughout Scotland are to descend on Glasgow today and tomorrow to attend masterclasses and workshops on television, radio, film and digital media.

The Creative Loop Student Media Festival is being hosted by Creative Loop members, Aberdeen College; Adam Smith College in Fife; Cardonald College, Glasgow; Dundee College; Perth College and Reid Kerr College in Paisley.

Says Creative Loop: “[We work] to develop talent for Scotland’s creative media industries and aim to ensure that students are fully equipped with the skills and flair required by this constantly evolving and competitive sector.”

It continues: “The two-day festival will provide a platform for emerging talent in film and television, radio and digital media to network with industry professionals, showcase their work and pitch their ideas to media commissioners for instant feedback. This festival will feature a variety of workshops and master classes across the different platforms led by leading industry figures.”

The event is taking place at the CCA. For more information, click here.