Sunday, 16 February 2014


Glasgow Film Festival... regular fixture... distinctive identity... year on year growth... strands of cinema... ah! There we are. Here's the bit I want to talk about...

Crossing the Line is the art film section of the Glasgow Film Festival - the stuff that won't really be shown in any other place around Scotland (unless Edinburgh's Cameo and Filmhouse pick them up...). It is a mixture of visual artists making film, experiments in cinematography and other good, alternative action. Let's see what the press release says...
In 2014 these unique artists take a radical look at who we are and how we live now as they reimagine the past to give it new meaning.

The innovative programme features world premieres of new commissions for GFF by Glasgow-based artist Rachel Maclean and cult author and filmmaker Chris Petit; the UK premiere of artist Ed Atkins’ surreal and disturbing programme Man of Steel; a celebration of the legacy of Margaret Tait; an examination of Scottish identity in the year of the referendum; and screenings of the latest works by visionaries Lav DiazBen Rivers & Ben Russell,Mati DiopYervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci-Lucchi and Basma Alsharif.

Rachael Maclean has, rightly, been the darling of Glasgow's art scene for a few years now: her short films hide a profound disquiet beneath a glowing kitsch surface. Her entry in CTL  is this year's Margaret Tait Award. In the past, she has grappled with national identity, the corporate take-over of the subconscious and the mythic resonance of celebrity trivia. 

A Whole New World explores themes related to British imperial history and national identity in the anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn and the First World War and is “an elaborate combination of prosthetic make-up, historical costume and Union Jack-encrusted tourist tat”.

Chris Petit, best known for his classic road movie Radio On and cult novel Robinson, for a
fascinating evening of screenings and discussion around his current project the Museum of Loneliness. Founded in 2010 on the observation that modern life’s primary relationship is now with the screen, the Museum is an anti-pantheon driven by the idea of post-cinema, embracing everything from “dead TV and the vast electro-magnetic slums of audio and visual junk, to calls waiting, elevator announcements, Muzak and obsolete weather and traffic reports.” During the event Chris will premiere his new film Reverse Archeology (2014, 12m), specially  commissioned by GFF to explore the concepts behind the Museum.

Petit is one of those artists who seem to sit on the outside of the mainstream, yet get their work into well respected places. He harks back to the more anarchic artists of the 1960s and 1970s, fascinated by awkward juxtaposition and working in the margins of form and functionality. 

Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2009 artist Ed Atkins’ rise has been stratospheric, with solo shows at Tate Britain, Chisenhale and PS1 and commissions for the Venice and Lyon Biennales. Atkins’ mastery of CGI animation, surround-sound and poetic narrative is expanding the parameters of moving image. The artist brings his Man of Steel curated programme to GFF for its UK premiere, fresh from its world premiere at the prestigious Performa biennale in New York. Exploring the use of the alter ego in artists’ films, Atkins has put together a blackly funny and unsettling selection of work by other artists punctuated by new videos in which he sings through a variety of computer-generated, motion-captured avatars. A chimpanzee, Mrs Peanut and Betty Boop will all feature.

The first collaboration between two of the most exciting artist-filmmakers currently working – Ben Rivers (Two Years at Sea) and Ben Russell (Let Each One Go Where He May) – has resulted in the mesmerising ethnographic film A Spell to Ward off the Darkness, which eschews capitalist culture to offer three extreme alternative ways of living.

A little more on this film, taken from their website.

In depth film synopsis can be read as follows (via MUBI):

“A SPELL follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With
little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black metal band in Norway.
Marked by loneliness, ecstatic beauty and an optimism of the darkest sort, A SPELL is a radical proposition for the existence of utopia in the present.

Starring artist / musician Robert AA Lowe (best known for his intense live performances under the name LICHENS) in the lead role, A SPELL lies somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – it is at once a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.”.
Cinema as a place where magical change can happen? There is always a danger that this will be two big shots talking the arse off reality, but it is a risk I am usually willing to take. I am not quite sure what the 'darkest optimism might be, though. 

In Place of Work – Margaret Tait Revisited, the pioneering Orcadian filmmaker’s legacy and influence on experimental filmmaking will be celebrated. Two Scottish-based artists Stina Wirfelt and Oliver Mezger have sensitively reinterpreted Tait’s work, underlining its continuing relevance to contemporary Scotland. Their new short films will screen alongside Tait’s own ‘film-poem’ Place of Work (1976, 31m) and will be followed by a discussion led by Tait expert Dr Sarah Neely.

Since she has a name in her honour, it is good to get a relatively rare chance to see some of Tait's work on the big screen.

Known to audiences for her stunning performance in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, Mati Diop’s own formally adventurous films are a revelation. In A Thousand SunsDiop merges fantasy and reality as she imagines the fate of the two lead characters from Touki Bouki, the classic Senegalese film made by her late uncle Djibril Diop Mambéty in 1973. Her beguiling film will be followed by a screening of Touki Bouki – this double bill offers a compelling insight into personal, national and cinematic histories.


A Spell to Ward off the Darkness

Glasgow Film Theatre, Sunday 23 (15.45) & Monday 24 February (12.45)

Directors: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell / France/Germany/Estonia 2013, 1h35m, N/C 15+

Margaret Tait Award: A Whole New World

Glasgow Film Theatre, Monday 24 February (21.30)

Director: Rachel Maclean Cast: Rachel Maclean / United Kingdom 2014, 32min, English/French/Arabic/Hindi/Cantonese/Zulu with subtitles.

Barbaric Land plus Farther than the Eye Can See
Glasgow Film Theatre, Tuesday 25 (18.45) & Wednesday 26 February (16.00)

Barbaric Land: Directors: Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci-Lucchi / France 2013, 1h5m, French and Italian with subtitles, N/C 18+
Farther than the Eye Can See: 
Director: Basma Alsharif / Jordan/United Arab Emirates 2012, 13m, N/C 18+

Man of Steel
Glasgow Film Theatre (21.00)
Event 1h30m approx, N/C 18+, Man of Steel first premiered as part of the Performa 13 biennial, organised by Performa Curator Mark Beasley.

Norte, the End of History
Cineworld Renfrew Street, 26 (18.30) &y (13.45)
Director: Lav Diaz, Cast: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania / Philippines 2013, 4h10m, Tagalog with subtitles, N/C 18+

Tae Think Again: Rethinking Identity in Contemporary Scotland 
Centre for Contemporary ArtsWednesday 26 February (18.30)
Event 1h45m approx, N/C 12+, Tae Think Again was originally developed as a symposium co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh Printmakers.

Museum of Loneliness with Chris Petit
Glasgow Film Theatre, 
Event running time 1h45m approx, N/C 15+

Place of Work – Margaret Tait Revisited
Centre for Contemporary Arts, Friday 28 February (20.15)
Event 1h50m approx, N/C 8+

Touki Bouki plus A Thousand Suns
Glasgow Film TheatreSunday 2 March (13.30)
Touki Bouki: Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty, Cast: Magaye NiangMareme NiangAminata Fall / Senegal 1973, 1h25m, Wolof/Arabic/French with subtitles, N/C 12+
A Thousand Suns: Director: Mati Diop, Cast: Magaye Niang / France 2013, 45m, Wolof with subtitles, N/C 12+

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