Highlights of the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival

Apples (2020)

Mari Jones looks at the best films being screened at next week’s Glasgow Film Festival 2021.

Following in the footsteps of recent festivals (London Film Festival, FrightFest, Sundance etc.), the Glasgow Film Festival has also moved online, delivering its programme in an alternative way that allows it to continue in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Running from the February 24 to March 7, viewers will be able to book tickets to watch a wide range of wonderful titles from the comfort of their own homes, including specific strands focussing on South Korean films, the much-anticipated Audience Award entries, and 6 features fronted by FrightFest. There will also be a special programme called Welcome To, highlighting Black Scottish films, filmmakers and history (running from March 4-6). Indeed, with a total of 61 features and several shorts available, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Here’s just a few of the titles we’re excited to see at GFF 2021:

Minari

Opening this year’s GFF, Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari has already won awards and garnered huge critical acclaim, with many praising its tender and uplifting tale. Chung uses his own memories and experiences to add a sense of authenticity to this story about a Korean American family determined to find success in rural Arkansas, while also tackling ideas around identity, assimilation, and the American dream. With stunning performances from its cast (particularly Steven Yeun and Yeri Han) this film will be the perfect way to kick off the fest.

Riders of Justice

Anders Thomas Jensen’s dark (and often surreal) comedy-dramas have long marked him as one of the most interesting, distinctive writer-directors working in both Danish cinema, and the industry as a whole. But Riders of Justice might just be his darkest, funniest feature yet. With a terrific ensemble cast (including Mads Mikkelsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas), Jensen’s film follows a vigilante group as they embark on a revenge mission against a biker gang. Filled with shocking violence and surprisingly hilarious moments, this looks like it will be Jensen at his finest.

Black Bear

Lawrence Michael Levine’s story about a filmmaker (played by the brilliant Aubrey Plaza) meeting a couple (Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon) at a lakeside retreat is the kind of intriguing, multi-layered delight that twists and turns in the most unexpected of ways. What begins as a normal drama becomes increasingly strange as it unravels, Levine delivering something superbly meta and wildly inventive. The sort of film that will keep you guessing until its final moments, this is sure to be endlessly entertaining.

Rosa’s Wedding

Billed by the fest as “the feel-good comedy that we all need right now”, Icíar Bollaín’s bright and breezy film follows hard-working seamstress Rosa (Candela Peña) as she decides to finally stop putting others before herself and take her life into her own hands, starting with moving back to Benicàssim to re-open her late mother’s clothes shop. With a fabulous central turn from Candela Peña as Rosa and a wonderful narrative that focuses on fighting for your own dreams, this charming, fun film looks like it will be a real breath of fresh air and an absolute joy to watch.

Apples

Musings on identity and memory abound in Christos Nikou’s haunting first feature, about a man (Aris Servetalis) who suffers from amnesia after he’s affected by a mysterious virus. When no-one comes forward to claim him, he’s enrolled in a special recovery programme in the hope that he can build a new life for himself instead. Described as touching and darkly comedic, this has already been compared to the works of Yorgos Lanthimos and Charlie Kaufman, making this a guaranteed surreal delight.

Jumbo

Inspired by a true story, this strange and oddly hypnotic film from Zoé Wittock explores what happens when someone finds love in the most unusual of places. When a new fairground ride arrives at the local amusement park, cleaner Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) is drawn to it, slowly becoming infatuated and convincing herself that Jumbo (as she calls it) also has feelings for her. But is it all in her head? With dashes of magical realism and a moving portrayal by Noémie Merlant, this looks to be unexpectedly sweet and poignant – a bizarre drama that has to be seen to be believed.

The Woman with Leopard Shoes

All of the FrightFest titles at this year’s GFF seem equally compelling, but it is this film from writer-director Alexis Bruchon that is particularly eye-catching. A striking modern noir shot in black and white, Bruchon’s narrative follows a burglar (Paul Bruchon) as he struggles to escape a house when dozens of people arrive for a party. Hidden and plotting a way out of there, he suddenly makes a surprising discovery that makes his need for escape even more dire. With an incredible lead performance from Paul Bruchon (who is completely silent throughout) and several tense twists and turns, Bruchon’s film sounds like a startling feature debut.

Truman & Tennessee

Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s documentary explores the complex relationship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, while also charting the parallels of their careers and the personal struggles they faced. Using a wealth of archive material, and with Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto voicing the writers’ words, this has already been described as an intimate, fascinating study of these two prolific American writers, as well as a revealing and emotional look at the price of their success.

Limbo

Ben Sharrock’s Limbo previously screened at the London Film Festival to rapturous reviews, and it’s set to receive just as much praise at GFF. Separated from his family after fleeing conflict in Syria, Omar (Amir El-Masry) finds himself stuck in a desolate refugee centre on a remote Scottish island, waiting for others to decide his future. Delivered by writer-director Sharrock with impressive dry humour and heartbreaking realism, this timely and poignant tale is sure to be one of the drama highlights of this year’s fest.

Welcome II the Terrordome

Screening as part of the Welcome To: A Focus on Black Women Filmmakers strand, Ngozi Onwurah’s Afrofuturist production from 1995 has been described as way ahead of its time. Centring on a dark dystopia where Black people have been forced to live in a slum called the Terrordome, Onwurah’s film is bold and unflinching in what it has to say about racial identity and tensions, her story following a brother (Valentine Nonyela) and sister (Suzette Llewellyn) as they fight back against the injustices they face. As the first film directed by a Black British woman to receive a UK theatrical release, this vital piece of cinema is a must-see.

Voice of Silence

Of the 5 South Korean films showing at the fest, it’s this thriller slash drama that we’re most excited to see. Writer-director Hong Eui-jeong blurs the lines between good and evil in this tale about a pair of mob cleaners (Yoo Ah-in and Yoo Jae-myung) who unexpectedly find themselves tasked with babysitting an 11-year-old girl (Moon Seung-ah). Starring the wonderful Yoo Ah-in from Burning, this looks like an intriguing, gripping crime film, yet one that is also surprisingly bittersweet.

With this and many more excellent titles, there’s plenty to see at GFF 2021. Take a deep dive into the programme here, and maybe you’ll discover your next favourite film. And be sure to keep checking The Digital Fix for our GFF reviews and coverage.

Tickets for the Glasgow Film Festival are on sale now and priced at £9.99 each. But they also have special curated content bundles that offer a selection of titles at a reduced price (bundles available to buy until 12pm on Wednesday 24th February). Once you’ve bought your tickets, your film will be available to watch for 72 hours after the start date and time.

Mari Jones

Updated: Feb 17, 2021


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