Film Feature: A Cinephile’s Guide to Glasgow


Glasgow is a city with a rich offering of cinematic delights. Starting from Cineworld in the city centre (which is the tallest cinema in the world and boasts 18 screens) and Showcase Cinemas in the Southside. Both show a variety of blockbuster and independent film, with the focus on catering to the mainstream, casual cinema-going public. The Grosvenor Cinema on Ashton Lane occupies a middle ground between the commercial and the arthouse. Positioned alongside some of the best bars and restaurants in the city, it’s a popular destination for those living in the West End. Meanwhile, the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street focuses on projects further off the beaten track, such as the Scottish Queer International Film Festival (SQIFF) and the ongoing Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF). The CCA also participates in the Future Shorts Festival, which takes place in over 50 cities around the globe and aims to showcase the best in short form filmmaking. The January 2016 Programme, which qmunicate covered, included entries from Sweden, Australia, America and Romania.

The CCA’s monthly programme is always worth keeping an eye on given the vast range of social and political issues covered by the films screened, and the particular slant towards home-grown British talent. However, the jewel in the crown of Glasgow’s offerings is without a doubt the Glasgow Film Theatre, a beautiful art deco cinema on Rose Street. The GFT shows the latest in arthouse and independent filmmaking from every corner of the globe all year round, and regularly invites filmmakers, actors and film academics for Q&As and relevant discussions. In 2015, it was voted Cinema of the Year by the UK Screen Awards, and is also home to the Glasgow Film Festival, which has grown into one of the most exciting and vibrant festivals in the UK.

The 2016 Glasgow Film Festival was the most successful yet, with UK premieres of the highly acclaimed Hail, Caesar! and Anomalisa, and many special guests. The festival also gives rise to a number of pop-up cinemas at famous Glasgow landmarks, such as the Barrowlands Ballroom, The Tramway and Drygate Brewery. These one-off events ensure that the festival reaches out to every corner of the city. The Glasgow Short Film Festival and the Glasgow Youth Film Festival, (the only film festival in Europe curated by 15-18 year olds) run in conjunction with GFF, broadening the scope of what wouldn’t otherwise be possible within the GFF’s tight scheduling. As well as the major events run by GFF and the aforementioned festivals organised by venues like the CCA, Glasgow’s Southside Film Festival holds a certain position in the city. Started in order to fill the void left by the last remaining Southside cinemas closing in the early 2000s, it has blossomed into a community orientated event celebrating local culture and developing the public’s interest in home-grown and international cinema, as well as in the art of filmmaking itself.

Glasgow and its inhabitants have a particular affinity for the silver screen, and this is evident in the world class calibre of Glaswegians currently working in the film industry. Directors such as Bill Forsyth (That Sinking Feeling, Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero) and Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, We Need to Talk About Kevin) have gained international acclaim and have helped forming the backbone of the British film industry for the past 50 years. Furthermore, their Glasgow-based films (That Sinking Feeling and Ratcatcher in particular) capture the essence of the city with a level of realism and emotion that few filmmakers can achieve. Such, arguably, is the inspiration that a great filmmaker can take from a city as bursting with life and energy as Glasgow. Furthermore, Glaswegian actors including James McAvoy and Robert Carlyle have gone on to garner international recognition for their work. Robert Carlyle’s breakout film, Trainspotting, is also perhaps the most famous film ever made in Glasgow. However, Glasgow has been shot thousands of times and is capable of morphing into countless different guises, whether it be the comedic landscape of the Scots-Italian community as in Forsyth’s Comfort and Joy or the terrifying, ghostly portrayal of Sauchiehall and Argyle Street at night, shown in Jonathan Glazer’s unique and startling science fiction work Under the Skin.

From the current landscape of its arts scene to its influences upon wider, international film, Glasgow’s culture is deeply intertwined with cinema and the history of filmmaking. Whether it be through attending any of the multitude of events that occur throughout the year or by going back and watching those films that are in some way quintessentially of the city, spending your time delving into everything cinematic that Glasgow has to offer cannot be encouraged strongly enough.

[Tim Abrams – @timabrams123]

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