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On The Road: From Glasgow to SXSW

When one door closes, another one opens. Or something slightly less cliche. As Everything Everywhere All At Once’s historic sweep at the Oscars signals the end of the 2022 year of film, there’s minimal reprieve for the industry as the next bout of releases line-up for their turn along the festival parade. Some festivals springboard new talent, independent cinema, or obscure niches, whilst others are for the big name stars and filmmakers to showcase their latest, or for distributors to cherry pick their yearly release slate with whatever’s going to bring them the highest return. Regardless of their reason, film festivals are as constant as they are important to the grandiose film industry circus and with so many cities across the globe serving as the charismatic ringleaders, it means, for the likes of us and other opportunistic audiences, that we get to hit the road and feel apart of something magic. 

We were extremely fortunate to be invited to two remarkably different festivals this side of summer. We joined Carol Morley’s Typist Artist Pirate King’s UK premiere up in Glasgow and hung out with the filmmaker herself and star, Kelly Macdonald, on the red carpet whilst gluttonously seeking out all that GFF’s line-up had to offer from supporting acts to the mammoth headliners. Then, with nothing but a few fresh outfits, notebooks, and cameras, we caught a flight all the way out to the Deep American South, and the iconic SXSW. 

Glasgow Film Festival

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow has, over the past twenty or so years, positioned itself as a true epicentre for Scottish film. Even edging out the heritage and stature of the country’s capital, filmmakers have established a real sense of community, connection, and creativity in the city along the River Clyde that, under the art deco canopy of GFT, you really can’t help but be absolutely taken in by. People Make Glasgow, after all. 

Founded in 2005, Glasgow Film Festival has become a staple of the UK festival circuit – one of the largest in the country – with the sole focus of positioning the audience experience as paramount. This year, GFF boasted 70 UK Premieres and 6 World Premieres, with a slew of industry events designed to give young or up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to meet with professionals. 

For us, the atmosphere was electric – not just at Glasgow Film Theatre, but all over the city, with audiences and filmmakers coming from all over to experience the festivities in true Glaswegian style. We were fortunate enough to attend a slew of screenings, panels, and premieres that introduced us to a world of new perspectives and life-altering insights. GFF is definitely now a permanent annual fixture in our calendar. 

Glasgow Films:

Our top films from Glasgow Film Festival:

Riceboy Sleeps ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Anthony Shim, a Lonesome Heroes Productions Film.

This semi-autobiographical outing from writer/director Anthony Shim invites us into the world of So-Young, a single mother from Korea who is struggling to raise her teenage son Dong-Hyun, after moving to Canada to give him a better life. Riceboy Sleeps is personal and it is critical and Shim handles each step these characters take with a masterful hand. The long takes drag you into the story in a voyeuristic manner, keeping you locked in for all that becomes of them. A stellar piece of film.

Riceboy Sleeps was the winner of Glasgow Film Festival’s Audience Award, sponsored by Belhaven Brewery. 

Girl ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Adura Onashile, a BFI/BBC/Screen Scotland Film.

The opening gala film, Girl, is a testament to the talent in modern filmmaking. A tender mediation into the advent of unexpected motherhood and the seeping generational trauma, Adura Onashile’s feature debut is an evocative and explorative film that invites you into the musings of Grace (Déborah Lukumuena), a Nigeria emigre, who worries over her daughter Ama (Le’Shantey Bonsu) as she approaches puberty and yearns for the normality of her British-born peers. The familiar landscape of Glasgow, all at once in this film, feels daunting, and the dynamics of dependency are criticised as they are understood. A beautiful picture. 

Lakelands ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Patrick McGivney and Robert Higgins, a Harp Media Film. 

Lakelands introduces us to Éanna Hardwicke as Cian, a local GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) footballer from a small town in Ireland, who, on a night out, suffers a traumatic injury that impacts his ability to play. The film itself trundles on in a quiet and personal manner, feeling, at times, like a series of diary entries that explore Cian’s recovery more so than a concise and progressing narrative. However, this works in favour for this style of film, an intimate portrait of a directionless man, and easily permits you to understand Cian’s turmoil. 

How To Blow Up A Pipeline ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, a Spacemaker Productions Film. 

Andreas Malm’s manifesto sent ripples throughout the world when it was released in 2021, dismantling the social doctrine of strategic nonviolence that permeated the environmentalist movement until that point. Daniel Goldhaber, along with Ariela Barer and Jordan Sjol, has brought this manifesto to life with a fiercely gripping, thrilling narrative about a group of individuals who come together to make a stand against climate change. Small in production but grand in scope, the film recognises its importance but doesn’t fall victim to ego or self-aggrandising, instead remaining entirely focused on the human element that often becomes lost in political spiel. A landmark film, How To Blow Up A Pipeline is a postcard of human potential. 

God’s Creatures ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

Directed by Anna Rose Holmer and Saela Davis, an A24/Screen Ireland Film.

Emily Watson and Paul Mescal lead this timid track into the limits of a mother’s trust. Though the plot itself is faulted by being altogether too simplistic, and oftentimes predictable, the rugged cinematography and nuanced performances from Watson and Mescal allow for a fairly immersive picture. Watson, in particular, stands out as a testament to the quiet acting that works well within these social realist pieces – the subtle movements with her expression work more wonder than the words on the page initially allow. 

SXSW (South By SouthWest):

Austin, Texas, United States.

SXSW has a particular mythos to it. For those interested in film, TV, or the festival circuit, it’s a familiar name most recently cited as a springboard for Oscar contenders, or where the first dregs of cult following surface for a new indie film. However, the festival itself boasts so much more than this. With conferences on creating, direction, new industries and tech, alongside immersive experiences with brands and media, SXSW is a two-week long journey into the very roots of American creativity and, for us, it was an honour just to be invited. 

Taking over the Austin Convention Center, SXSW is a celebration of innovation that entrances you into a realm of possibility. An environment designed to immerse and engage, the potential beats hard and fast and you’ll find yourself often overwhelmed by inspiration.

SXSW Films:

Our top films from SXSW Film & TV Festival:

Bottoms ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Emma Seligman, a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film.

Rachel Sennott, in the company of the addictive Ayo Edebiri (The Bear), reunites with Shiva Baby director Emma Seligman in this raucous, weird, and wild satire. The heavyweight stardom of its leads kick up a storm in a brutal parable of victimisation, violence and vapidness that follows two lesbian teenagers who set up a female fight-club on their quest to hook up with cheerleaders. Bottoms spins the high-school dramedy on its head and, although occasionally bumpy and heavy-handed in its approach, the film is charismatic and, most of all, fucking hilarious. 

I Used To Be Funny ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Ally Pankiw, a Barn 12/Ontario Creates Film. 

Another appearance from festival favourite Rachel Sennott as she leads this complex and confrontational debut from writer/director Ally Pankiw. Sam, an au pair and struggling stand-up, is all at once a textbook presentation of Sennott’s type but also a deeply layered and traumatised individual that allows the performer a chance to solidify herself as a true star entertainer. The sometimes harrowing plot is handled with deep care and sensibility while balanced, with tonal perfection, with fun and breezy moments.

Swarm ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Donald Glover and Adamma Ebo, an Amazon Studios Series. 

One of the most prolific voices in entertainment serving cultural criticism, Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino) partners with Adamma Ebo to explore the potential extremes of online ‘stan’ culture in this horrifically addictive series. Dominique Fishback is captivating as music star obsessive Dre who slowly and tragically becomes entangled in a web of violence and murder as a parasocial relationship with her favourite artist pulls her from reality. Though sometimes clunky in delivery, Swarm is an enticing series that welcomes you into the darker consequences of social media communities and shows you the damage that online discourse has the power to enact. 

Evil Dead Rise ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Lee Cronin, a New Line Cinema Film. 

An Evil Dead film should be two things: self-aware and gory. This new instalment in the franchise achieves both with perfect grace. Fresh, modern, and featuring stand out performances from young queer actors, the film adopts the conventions of Evil Dead but doesn’t try, unlike most recent horror reboots, to twist them or elevate them. No, Evil Dead Rise honours The Book of the Dead and all it has to offer with true dedication. This is a franchise built on overt horror that, at times, can seem slightly ridiculous and this latest addition doesn’t shy away from it, making the experience all the more hauntingly familiar. Alyssa Sutherland, in particular, is deserving of all the accolades being sent her way. 

Americana ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directed by Tony Tost, a Bron Studios Film.

A new-age western that shakes up small town America led by Sydney Sweeney that reinvents a classic genre in a charmingly surreal and effortlessly enjoyable way. Americana is exciting and rapid and darkly humorous while honouring the themes and style of Westerns of the past.

Word By: Beth Bennett

Images courtesy of Beth Bennet, New Europe Film Sales, Wildcard Distribution, Neon, A24 and Element Pictures, Julia Auchey, ORION Pictures Inc. and Orion Releasing LLC, Warrick Page/Prime Video, Ursula Coyote.