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by Elisa Teneggi

As you alight in Glasgow, the hustle and bustle of Buchanan Street salutes you with its unrestrained pace. People are always on the move in Glasgow: casual strollers and business personnel striding unremittingly uphill, downhill – Scotland’s biggest city might not be Rome, but it has the hilly configuration of an imperial capital nonetheless – and from time to time they pop into fancy hipster food parlours to grab a quick bite. No wonder there’s an underground transport system here. No wonder the proud, breezy attitude of its citizens is advertised at every main juncture. As discreet colourful placards keep reminding you, impinging on your star-gazing nose: people make Glasgow.

But bear with me, because my more-than-good reason to squander my monthly allowance in Edinburgh’s heterozygote twin city was, self-evidently enough, a film festival – the second biggest in the UK. The 15th edition of Glasgow Film Festival took place from February 26th to March 8th and this here’s a volunteer’s chronicle of what worked well, what was exciting (read: dope), and also… well, a couple of things that could have gone better.

Let’s start with the facts. The festival trailer was beautiful, tantalising, and gracefully designed. So was the programme – I spent hours skimming through that handy booklet packed with images and volunteer discounts. What I also noticed though was that the festival had a pretty tight schedule of screenings, public happenings, and industry events.

All the films belonged to a certain “strand” (Behind the Scenes, Cinemasters, Country Focus, Frightfest, and Future Cult to name a few), but not every movie was running for the Audience Award. There were three main festival locations: Glasgow Film Theatre, a wonderfully grungy New York-steel cinema in the heart of the city; the towering Cineworld multiplex; and the bohemian Centre for Contemporary Arts, sitting in the glamorously shady Sauchiehall St, where you can treat yourself to a delicious meal in a Lebanese bistro that resembles a shanty town supermarket (never judge a book by its cover).

Additionally the GFF’s buffet was superbly supplied with directors’ Q&As, press conferences, interviews, and red carpet moments. Guest of honour was Simon Pegg (promoting Katharine O’Brien’s intense  drama Lost Transmissions), who is more or less a local darling since his wife is from the city. Every member of staff shared that commitment vibe that makes you want to do more for the cause.

Unless – there’s actually very little you can do. In the midst of a hand-picked selection of underground flicks and all-time classics; of great gigs and amazing networking opportunities, the only note out of tune was having little means to kill time throughout shifts that saw three to four caffeinated Industry Team volunteers pile up in a room with nothing but an open door to stare at in case someone walked through. I might be luckier next time with the Marketing department.

I’m sure this article has been a disappointment to you, but I didn’t feel like writing yet another piece in praise of this or that film on the programme. I don’t think the overall quality of the screenings should weigh on your decision to visit a film festival or not. These kind of events are all about enjoying life on a light-years-away planet for brief spells of time, or blushing when you finally get to meet that celebrity with whom you’ve always dreamt of being face to face. And Glasgow has enough character to prove itself the perfect – though challenging – host to all those who will join the party.

That’s what I meant when I said that I learned something from the promotional material hanging in the streets. GFF was a place in which you could feel at home, a place where every wayward stranger would be greeted with a friendly smile. People do make Glasgow (Film Festival). Now go and play your part, when we all can.


Photo Credit: Metro Centric @ Flickr