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Glasgow Film Festival: Scotland’s biggest movie event goes virtual

Written by on 20 February 2021

Glasgow Film Festival was one of the last red carpet events to take place before the prime minister announced the first lockdown last year.

Twelve months on, the streets outside the city’s Film Theatre are covered in snow rather than a red carpet.

Due to COVID-19, the festival is going virtual this year, which means the 10 world premieres, three European premieres and 49 UK premieres being screened from 24 February to 7 March will be online, as will the Q&A sessions with those involved in making them.

Glasgow film festival will happen - but online Image: Glasgow film festival will happen – but online

There’s no denying it’s difficult to showcase a city when the 40,000 tickets are for events which people will attend without leaving their homes.

CEO of Glasgow Film Festival Allison Gardner told Sky News it’s not just those involved in the film industry that will be impacted by it being online.

“Glasgow itself is a fantastic city to visit, Glaswegians are known for their culture, culture in Glasgow is bottom up if you like, people really embrace it, there’s a great music scene.

“One of the downsides for not having visitors this year is the local businesses that we cannot support in terms of hotels, taxi companies and restaurants and that’s really tough for them.”

While the city will undeniably suffer a loss, a virtual festival is still a great opportunity for filmmakers like Oscar-tipped director Lee Isaac Chung.

His beautiful tale of a Korean-American family trying to make a fresh start in Arkansas is getting its UK premiere at Glasgow – where it will stream on opening night.

“It’s still exciting, even though it’s not in the form that I expected initially,” Chung told Sky News.

Minari tells the tale of a Korean family who move to America to build a better life Image: Minari tells the tale of a Korean family who move to America to build a better life

“A lot of these festivals, to me they’re heroes that they’re still trying to get stories out to people and doing it in clever ways.

“The one at Glasgow, that one means a lot to me, and I’m so glad it’s opening there.”

Other films showing at GFF include the world premiere of Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In and the UK premiere of Tina, a revealing portrait of singer Tina Turner (both movies will also be coming to Sky Documentaries and NOW TV in March).

Tina Turner and the Ikettes perform in May 1973. Pic: Altitude Image: Tina – a revealing documentary about Tina Turner – will also premiere. Pic: Altitude

And going virtual doesn’t seem to be stopping film festivals from doing big business.

The drama CODA, about an aspiring singer who is the only hearing person in her family, sold for a reported £18m at this month’s Sundance.

But for film fans – and stars – the online experience can be somewhat lacking.

Juno Temple says nothing beats going to the movies Image: Juno Temple says nothing beats going to the movies

Actress Juno Temple says there’s nothing like the big screen.

She told Sky News: “Last year, what an honour, I was asked to be on the jury for Tribeca – we did that all virtually, I think we may have been the first film festival that did it virtually.

“And that was a bizarre experience as well, because I mean, nothing beats going to the movies – that’s why I’m an actress, you know?

“And I think that it’s interesting watching films on a smaller screen because they do affect you differently when you’re completely immersed in a room that is designed to take you into that portal that is a film screen.”

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The big screen may be the obvious casualty of online film festivals, but from Hollywood to Glasgow, it’s cities as well as cinemas feeling the impact.

Glasgow Film Festival takes place online from 24 February to the 7 March 2021.

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