GSFF24 Opening Night Announcement

Grainy photo of Bill Douglas and a rose

Renowned Scottish Filmmaker, Bill Douglas, will be celebrated with premiere of never-before-seen short films made by the artist in the 60s.

We are so pleased to announce that the Opening Gala for the 17th edition of Glasgow Short Film Festival will feature six never before seen 8mm shorts made by Bill Douglas, alongside lifelong friend and collaborator, Peter Jewell.

We are also very excited to celebrate Bill Douglas and introduce new audiences to his early work – as the late, great filmmaking talent, whom our International Competition programme is named after.

From the streets to the rooftops of Soho, these early amateur works shape our understanding of the young artist’s creative progression, and shine a light on how his life changed after the events depicted in his autobiographical Trilogy. Their discovery is also at the core of feature documentary, Bill Douglas: My Best Friend by Jack Archer, which will be shown at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival.

GSFF24 will open on Wednesday 20th March and run until Sunday 24th March. The full GSFF24 programme will be unveiled on the 20th February.

Find out more and book tickets here

Premieres at Glasgow Short Film Festival and Glasgow Film Festival

We’re delighted to bring to a cinema screen, for the first time ever, six short films, charting Bill’s development as a filmmaker and storyteller exploring form and genre. Shot over a three year period in the mid-to-late sixties on the streets and rooftops of Soho, the films feature Bill and Peter’s friends and neighbours. It was Peter who gifted Bill his first Super 8 camera; he also appears in several of the films, and operated the camera when Bill himself was acting.

The films include the Hitchcockian psycho-drama Woman in the Park, a metaphysical spy spoof The Water Cress File and Still Life, the story of a woman admitted into an asylum (as Bill’s own mother was), inspired by Peter’s work as a social worker. Five of the films are silent and will be accompanied by a new live score composed and performed by Scottish musician Gerard Black (Babe, Archipel, François & the Atlas Mountains). The final film, Small World, is a rare ‘talkie’ which shows Bill’s flair for dialogue; the dialogue has been transcribed from a now unuseable recording made at the time and re-recorded with a Glaswegian cast specially for this screening.

Following rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, Glasgow Film Festival also will host the UK premiere of the story of this extraordinary friendship – Bill Douglas: My Best Friend. In Jack Archer’s moving documentary, Peter reminisces about the life he shared with Bill in their tiny Soho flat filled with cinema memorabilia. Their shared love of the movies led them to start experimenting with an 8mm camera and paved the way for Bill to attend film school and become one of the country’s most influential filmmakers, inspiring the likes of Lynne Ramsay (who compares Douglas to Tarkovsky). Peter’s memories and musings about the legacy Bill left behind and the intimacies, joys and complexities of male friendship are illustrated with never-seen-before clips from Bill and Peter’s amateur films from the 60s.

About Bill Douglas

Born into poverty in a Midlothian mining community in 1934, Bill Douglas became one of Scotland’s most celebrated film directors. In his short career Douglas made four films: an autobiographical trilogy about his difficult childhood—My Childhood, My Ain Folk and My Way Home—and Comrades, a transcontinental, visually stunning epic about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. 

Bill’s life was turned around in the Egyptian desert when, during National Service in the 1950s, he met the man who would become his lifelong companion, Peter Jewell. The two men came from very different backgrounds but they formed a unique bond that channelled a tremendous creative energy and lived together for over 30 years until Bill passed away from cancer in Peter’s North Devon hometown in 1991.

Matt Lloyd, GSFF Director

“We secured Peter’s blessing to name our annual international competition in honour of Bill Douglas back in 2012, with the aim of introducing his work to a new generation of emerging Scottish film talent, as well as raising his profile internationally. So it’s thrilling to be bringing these early works to their first audience, with a new live score composed and performed by Gerard Black (Babe). We were delighted when researcher Andy Kimpton-Nye approached us with the promise of Bill’s as-yet unseen early filmmaking experiments. Although amateur home movies, these films chart the development of a true visionary finding his unique storytelling voice. As such they have a lot to teach and to encourage aspiring filmmakers, not to mention capturing fascinating vistas of Soho in the late 1960s. “I’m particularly excited to be working with Alia Ghafar (Salt & Sauce, GSFF Scottish Short Film Award 2018) and sound designer William Aikman on creating a new dialogue track for Small World, and to be welcoming back Gerard to compose and perform a live score for the six films. Gerard previously scored three Dziga Vertov newsreels for us in 2022 – his sensitive approach breathed new life into works which could otherwise be challenging for modern viewers. We can’t wait to hear what he does with Bill’s Super 8 shorts.”

Jack Archer, Director of Bill Douglas: My Best Friend

“Bill Douglas has inspired many contemporary voices in world cinema but remains undiscovered by mainstream audiences. The discovery of a treasure trove of his unseen films was incredibly exciting. Watching them was like flicking through Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook. They demonstrated not only his developing style and directors’ eye but also the impact his friend Peter Jewell had on his life and career. Meeting Peter it became clear that his telling of the story of their life together should be the centre of the film. Bill remains a huge part of his life even thirty years after his death. He still finds it hard to define their friendship, emphasising that it wasn’t a sexual one; “we never said I love you or anything like that” and yet it had a physical dimension, “we held hands, hugged and relied on one another.” Their friendship was Platonic in the true meaning of the term, a spiritual rather than physical relationship formed around an appreciation of culture and an obsession for cinema. As Peter himself says ‘Art is the only immortality”.

Bill Douglas: My Best Friend is produced by Hopscotch Films with funding from Screen Scotland. Both Hopscotch Films and Screen Scotland also funded the digitisation of Bill’s amateur shorts.

To find out more and book tickets, click here