Running from the 15th to 19th March, Scotland’s biggest celebration of short film showcases the best in international and Scottish short filmmaking talent.
As the Glasgow Short Film Festival is about to kick off for it’s tenth year, The Fountain spoke with festival director, Matt Lloyd about his personal favourites programmed this year as well as new features such as the VR storytelling and a return of The Magic Lantern.
TF: The festival looks to have expanded from last year – what is the concept and vision behind the shorts film festival aside from being a platform for short films to be screened?
Glasgow Short Film Festival has always aimed to prod and push at this pretty nebulous term ‘short film’. Rather than just being a platform for short film, GSFF seeks to explore and promote wide-ranging cinematic forms – anything that doesn’t fit the commercial norm of a 90-120 minute feature. So we’re not averse to the idea of screening an eight hour film, although we haven’t got round to it yet… What we love to do is group diverse films together in thematic programmes and see how they play off one another. At the same time we love to group diverse filmmakers together, alongside their audience and see how they all get on… We’re particularly proud of the collaborations and connections that have formed, and we can claim some responsibility for at least one marriage, not to mention a feature or two!
TF: We are also going to see a return of The Magic Lantern. Is this for GSFF only and what brought about this reformation?
The Magic Lantern was one of the first of the regular pop-up cinema events in Glasgow, an inclusive and eclectic run by Penelope Bartlett and Rosie Crerar. After eighteen months or so it developed into what was to become GSFF, so it seemed fitting to bring it back for our tenth edition – at the time no one had any idea it would last this long, least of all Penny and Rosie. The Magic Lantern disbanded in 2010, after Penny had moved to the USA and Rosie to Australia. Rosie’s back in Glasgow now, working as an independent producer with artists and filmmakers like Rachel Maclean, whilst Penny is a programmer for the Criterion Collection’s new VoD channel. They’ve both remained great supporters of GSFF and we’re delighted they’re regrouping for this one off show.
TF: As well as this you are also screening the 35mm of Jazz Is Our Religion. This sounds like a wonderfully curated event – what brought about this piece of programming?
This film was brought to our attention by graphic designer and jazz fiend Craig Gallacher. Craig’s worked with us before, on the Strange Electricity night dedicated to Sähkö Recordings in 2015. He knows his onions when it comes to intriguing and rarely seen music films, but he’s also a very generous collaborator, so the night has developed with additional contributions and ideas from GSFF programmer Sanne Jehoul, jazz historian Stewart Morgan Hajdukiewicz and DJ Donna Leake. In addition to Jazz is Our Religion we’re very excited to see how folk respond to Jim Carruth’s reading and to the accompanying short film Jazz & Poetry, and we can’t wait to unleash the Ezra Collective on our audience.
TF: Which side of the festival to be the most valuable – the workshops and pitches or the screenings and retrospectives?
We’ve always tried to make the so-called ‘industry’ side of the festival inclusive and open to all. It’s for anyone who’s interested in how films are put together, not just professionals or students. But I believe the best way to learn how to make films is to watch a lot of them, from every region of the world and from every decade of over a century of cinema. So whilst I resist the notion of two sides of the festival – they go hand in hand – for me it’s all about the films!
TF: What are your personal faves of the programme this year, and why should your audience go see those?
So many great films in the international competition – Kaiju Bunraku by Miami’s Lucas Leyva & Jillian Mayer comes fresh to us from its world premiere at Sundance. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, drawing on the wildly divergent Japanese traditions of bunraku puppetry and monster B-movies. What Tears Us Apart, the latest film from Hu Wei, the director of multi-award winning Butter Lamp (GSFF14 Audience Award winner), is a richly drawn portrait of a family fractured and attempting to reconcile decades after the daughter is put out for adoption. Hu Wei’s profile after Butter Lamp has even allowed him to cast Isabella Huppert in a minor role… Gabey & Mike: A Jewish Summer Camp Love Story – did you know that Canadian superstar Peaches’ first gig was in Jewish girls’ summer camp folk band Mermaid Café? No, neither did I. This wonderful hybrid film by artists Stephanie Markowitz and Alexis Mitchell recounts their own awkward adolescence, whilst staging the story of the forbidden love between Gabey and Mike, the subjects of Mermaid Café’s most popular ditty. Three Dimensions of Time – Dutch artist Pim Zwier employs the three layer technique of early photography to capture three moments in time simultaneously during a trip to Russia. Combined, the three layers create normal full-colour images, but transitory figures drift through the spaces as one colour ghosts, leaving the barest of traces, whilst other stationary figures appear as solid and permanent as their surroundings. A haunting and deceptively simple work.
I’m also in love with the work of our filmmaker in focus, Gunhild Enger. Gunhild studied at Edinburgh College of Art a decade ago, then in Sweden, before returning to her native Norway, and she brings an outsider’s cross-border perspective to all her work, highlighting the absurdities of everyday existence that we usually take for granted. Her films are funny and tragic and mundane all at once, and she’s always searching for new formal approaches to storytelling.
It’s hard to whittle the programme down to a few faves, I’m proud of everything in there, but I’m intrigued and nervous to see what people make of the VR Movie House. VR storytelling is very much in its infancy, and the jury’s out on whether it will replace or complement ‘traditional’ cinema, or break off in an entirely different direction, or indeed just disappear without a trace. We’ve selected a handful of works that we think are making particularly interesting use of the medium, and in the way that we present them, we’re attempting to wed the isolated experience of VR with the communal experience of cinema-going. We’re not sure how successful it’ll be, but like the best short films, it’s an experiment.
Glasgow Short Film Festival kicks off today until 19th March and tickets to all events are available here.