2019 has been a turbulent but exciting year for GSFF. We hit our highest attendance at the 12th edition of the festival in March, were inexplicably named one of the 25 coolest film festivals in the world in July, and left the warmth of our home in the Glasgow Film family in September, striking out into the unknown as an independent organisation.
We’ve had a lot of help and goodwill along the way, not least from Glasgow Film themselves, but also from our wonderful shiny new board of trustees, from our new roomies Forest of Black and from the wider film community of Glasgow. But apart from the odd screening – at Document Film Festival, Campbeltown Picture House and at Cromarty Film Festival, not to mention our touring programme Shorts in Support – we’ve been keeping our heads down this autumn.
We were bowled over to receive a colossal 3,200 submissions this year, way in excess of any number we’ve received before, and scrambled to recruit a larger team of submissions viewers. We’re still working our way through the piles, and will make our final selection in late January. In the meantime, we’ve managed to find time for a few festival trips, to Hamburg, Vienna, Edinburgh, Wrocław, Berwick, Sea Change (Tiree), Encounters, Jihlava, Winterthur and Torino.
Thanks to all the many short film friends, locally and across the world, who’ve lent us a hand, and to our loyal and lovely audience. No Christmas round-up would be complete without a list of Best Ofs. Here are ours.
Favourite Critique of Capitalism in Short Film
Sanne: Undoubtedly TERROR NULLIUS, Soda_Jerk’s riotously fun revenge fable, which rips through Australian history, pop culture and politics to land on a reimagination of contemporary society, shaped by fiery feminism, queer politics, and indigenous rights. So controversial that the film’s funders distanced themselves from it because its politics were too radical. But naturally we welcomed some controversy for our GSFF19 opening event. More on Soda_Jerk below.
Special Mention: Short Changed by Scotland’s own Zoë Hutber.
Most WTF Moment in a Short Film
Matt: Jorge Jácome’s Past Perfect is a dense mélange of half-obscured images and thoughts, the filmmaker riffing on memory, melancholy and history. At its heart is a gorgeously hypnotic piece of choral music, a low, spiralling chant that washes over the viewer in waves. The moment at which the narrator suddenly reveals the source of this music is one of the most quietly shocking reversals I have ever experienced in a cinema, the floor ripped from beneath my feet.
Most Memorable Festival Experience
Sanne: This is a hard one, having travelled to already familiar favourites as well as new loves (hi Vienna Shorts). I will have to go with New Horizons in Wrocław however, betraying the purist short film events for one of the biggest film festivals in Poland. While the fest itself is wonderful and the local cinema-going culture enviable, I primarily attended to take part in Independent Cinema Office’s Developing Your Film Festival training programme (s/o to Screen Scotland for supporting). A worthwhile, insightful experience, even more so thanks to all the incredible participants I met from festivals across the globe.
Matt: Almost getting knocked over by the one maniac driver in sleepy Jihlava.
Most Fun in a Cinema
Matt: It was an absolute joy to catch the premiere of James Price’s Boys Night in a packed Filmhouse 1 on the closing day of Edinburgh International Film Festival. The audience howled with laughter. Boys Night presents a milieu we’ve seen many times in Scottish short film, but it’s rare to find something this funny, authentic and expertly crafted. He takes the story into some dark places, but without ever becoming gratuitous or hysterical. The Q&A was a cracker too.
Favourite GSFF Guest
Sanne & Matt: Hosting Soda_Jerk in Glasgow to present their brilliantly disruptive work TERROR NULLIUS as our opening event was a definite highlight. The Angeloro sisters are the best guests a festival could ask for – warm, inspiring, humble, fun, generous, considerate, and full of beans. Feel free to come back any day.
Special mention: Bridget Fowler, Luke Fowler’s mum, who came to accept her son’s award for Mum’s Cards with a perfectly measured amount of sass.
Most Joyously Feminist Moment in Long Cinema
Matt: Bo Peep reinvented as a kick-ass adventurer in a radio-controlled skunk was a highlight of Toy Story IV, providing a nice counterpoint to the over-arching theme of male mid-life crisis (which struck an alarmingly emotional chord with me).
Special Mentions: Frozen II, Knives and Skin by Jennifer Reeder
Best Experimental Documentary Musical Which Also Happens To Be Favourite Short Of 2019
Matt: The film I can watch over and over again is Rise by Brazilian/Irish duo Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca. The film flows like water through the underground spaces of the Toronto subway, following poets, rappers and singers as they negotiate their status as both first- and second-generation Torontonians as well as settlers living on borrowed Indigenous land. It’s a lushly choreographed collaboration between the filmmakers and their subjects, flicking effortlessly between humour and heartache.
Sanne: My top pick is also one we haven’t screened at GSFF (yet), although like Rise it was included in our Voices of Resistance programme at Document Film Festival. One of the latest works of GSFF favourite Kevin Jerome Everson (GSFF18), co-directed with Claudrena Harold, Black Bus Stop films students from black fraternities and sororities at the University of Virginia as they dance and chant in tribute to what was an iconic gathering spot for black students in the 80s and 90s. Read a recent interview with Everson here.
Signing off for 2019! Happy holidays, be kind to one another and keep your eyes peeled for some programme announcements in mid-Jan.
Matt Lloyd (Festival Director) & Sanne Jehoul (Festival Co-Director)