Glasgow Film Festival 2023 Closes

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Festival Co-director Allan Hunter at the GF23 closing gala screening, Polite Society

Glasgow Film Festival celebrates bumper 2023 event with cinema admissions up 25% from 2022

Triumphant return of the much-loved Special Events programme, including two sold out screenings of Under The Skin with live soundtrack from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Over 12 days, the festival welcomed hundreds of delegates from around the UK at venues across the city, bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels as the festival continues to thrive as the major meeting point for the Scottish filmmaking sector

Over 2000 people attended the festival’s free retrospective programme, In The Driving Seat, the largest audience since the series began

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Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) 2023 wrapped up on Sunday 12 March by celebrating a bumper year of ticket sales and local and international talent.

GFF23 cinema admissions increased by 25% on GFF22, with all three special event screenings (the first special events since GFF20) selling out, marking a fantastic return for one of the audience’s favourite parts of GFF. In total, 33,667 people attended 295 film screenings and events over 12 days at Glasgow Film Theatre, plus CCA, Cineworld, Glee Club, QMU, Festival Hub and Delegate Centres and community venues. GFF also partnered with 13 cinemas across the UK, including Barbican and BFI Southbank in London, Cameo in Edinburgh, DCA in Dundee, Watershed in Bristol and Queens Belfast for the first UK screenings of GFF premieres How To Blow Up A Pipeline and The Five Devils.

The 19th edition of GFF opened and closed with sold-out gala premieres of debut features directed by exciting new UK female filmmakers - Adura Onashile’s Glasgow-shot Girl and Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society - and welcomed a host of famous faces onto the red-carpet including Emily Watson, Kelly Macdonald, James Cosmo, Joely Richardson and Alistair McGowan.

GFF23 cemented the festival’s reputation for offering big stages to Scotland’s Black, LGBTQ+ and working class filmmaking talent to premiere their first features, with Adura Onashile’s Girl, Jo Reid’s The Freedom Machine, Andrew Cumming’s The Origin and James Price’s Dog Days all packing out GFT Cinema One. Their success also builds on the achievement of Jono McLeod’s debut My Old School which received its UK premiere with sold out screenings at GFF22 and became the second highest-grossing new title in Glasgow Film Theatre history when it went on general release in summer 2022. GFF has always been an audience-facing festival, but is now regarded as one of the major events in the UK’s film and TV industry calendar, with 3 titles from the festival programme being bought immediately before, during and after the festival - Girl, The Beasts and Driving Mum. GFF Industry Focus welcomed 600 press and industry delegates (a return to pre-pandemic attendance levels) for four days of discussion, networking and skills sharing.

The festival showcased new Spanish cinema and welcomed international filmmakers including Matt Johnson (Blackberry), Jonas Chernick (The End of Sex), Muta’Ali Muhammad (Cassius X: Becoming Ali), Daniel Goldhaber (How To Blow Up A Pipeline), Floor van der Meulen (Pink Moon), Àlfrún Örnólfsdóttir (Band) and Sophie Linnenbaum (The Ordinaries) who attended the festival from Canada, the USA, the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany and more, joining top UK talent including Carol Morley (Typist Artist Pirate King) and Mark Cousins (My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock / March on Rome).

GFF23 marked festival co-director Allan Hunter’s last year at the festival, since his first GFF in 2007. His ever-popular series of morning retrospectives for GFF23 welcomed the largest audience in its history, with over 2000 people watching classic movies for free on the big screen. GFF continues to flourish as the film festival for audiences with a host of new innovations to make the festival accessible to the city as a whole, including pay-what-you-can movies and free screenings of festival films at Civic House, programmed in collaboration with local communities in the Garnethill area, in partnership with the Garnethill Multicultural Centre.

GFF audiences also called the shots as they voted on the prestigious Glasgow Film Festival Audience Award. The only award presented at the festival, it is decided from a handpicked selection of 10 films by first or second time directors and the 2023 winner was announced as Riceboy Sleeps. The drama about a Korean single mother raising her son in 1990s Canada earned writer-director Anthony Shim the prestigious Award, which was sponsored for the first time by Belhaven Brewery.

What Our Red Carpet Guests said sbout GFF23

Emily Watson, actor God’s Creatures, speaking to the GFF red carpet film crew: “It feels so cool to be having the UK premiere of this movie, which is so special to me, here in this festival where it feels like there’s a young, modern, fresh feeling about interesting films. It’s places like this, where people come out arguing and talking about movies and having a communal experience, that are giving film life”.

Carol Morley, director Typist Artist Pirate King , speaking to the GFF red carpet film crew: “I love the festival, because the festival is for people, it is for audiences, they believe in people. And I feel like with Glasgow, everyone here loves film… it’s about films that change people’s lives and films that connect with people, so it’s always been very special when I’ve come”.

Adura Onashile, writer-director Girl, speaking to the GFF red carpet film crew “I am pinching myself, really. This story started from Glasgow and to present it here feels like we’ve come full circle. GFT knocks the pants off Sundance, any day! These are the people that I want to impress, that I want to feel connected to the film”.

Speaking from New York, Lee Grant, legendary Oscar-winning actress and director and subject of the festival retrospective Looking For America: The Films of Lee Grant, said about GFF: “I am so grateful to the Glasgow Film Festival for showing my documentaries. I have no words to express the gratitude in my heart for your interest in the things that I am passionate about”.

GFF is one of the leading film festivals in the UK and run by Glasgow Film, a charity which also runs Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). GFF is made possible by support from Screen Scotland, the BFI (awarding funds from the National Lottery), Glasgow Life and EventScotland.

Glasgow Film Festival will return in 2024 with dates announced soon and the full programme revealed in January 2024. A selection of films from GFF23 including Mister Organ and Band will screen online on the Glasgow Film At Home platform this week as an exclusive limited release- visit for more details.

Allison Gardner, Glasgow Film Festival Co-director, said:

“GFF23 was magical, from the sold out screenings to the warm and enthusiastic welcome our audiences gave the guests and filmmakers. Every year I am astounded at the support, loyalty and knowledge of those audiences who take a chance on the curated programme, but this year they were exceptionally generous and we were incredibly busy, with audiences up 25% on 2022 across a similar number of events. The discussions, debates and love of cinema was clear and it warms my heart to see audiences taking a chance and supporting emerging talent. Whilst I am sad that Allan Hunter has left, I know his work over the last 17 years has created a festival that will go on to be a trusted place for film lovers into the future.”

Allan Hunter, Glasgow Film Festival Co-director, said:

“I think it’s fair to say the 2023 Festival has been a triumph. The wide-ranging selection of films put together by the programming team met with such a fantastic response. It felt as if Festival audiences were back in full force, hungry to experience all the delights that home-grown productions and world cinema has to offer. The waves of love for Carol Morley’s Typist Artist Pirate King and the Audience Award for Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps should alert UK distributors to the potential that lies in these particular titles and so many others that were premieres in Glasgow. I think it is the range of titles and the passionate programmers who champion them that make the Festival so special. A packed industry programme also confirmed that Glasgow has become a massive, influential bridge between film watchers and filmmakers. I couldn’t be happier with the Festival as I step down and know that under Allison it will continue to flourish and thrive.”

Isabel Davis, Executive Director Screen Scotland, said:

“Glasgow Film Festival exemplifies quality and heart right across its programme. Its warm welcome to audiences and filmmakers alike brings more and more people together each year to celebrate the best films from Scotland and around the world.

“Our objectives of developing new audiences for a diverse range of films, and shining a light on pathways and possibilities for filmmakers, are richly met through GFF’s programming which is supported by Screen Scotland.

“We congratulate the whole GFF team, with a very special mention to Allan Hunter, whose warmth, wit and exceptional programming talents are the embodiment of the festival. Together with [co-director] Allison Gardner, he has done so much to make GFF the special place it is and we wish him all the best for the future.”

Ben Luxford, Head of UK Audiences at BFI, said:

“Glasgow Film Festival continues to impress. The Festival also marks one of the last events which received National Lottery funding through our outgoing strategy and the BFI Audience Fund. I can’t think of a better way for us to go out - with a bang, with audiences, with culture, with full cinemas! Congratulations to everyone involved, and thank you to Allan for everything he’s brought to this vital festival.”

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said:

“Congratulations to all of the team on delivering another outstanding festival edition spanning the best of local and international cinema. The festival, which continues to be cherished by audiences far and wide, once again offered a truly rich and diverse programme which sparked conversations, celebrated homegrown talent and brought the industry together.

“Few industries have the impact events do. They play an important role in our communities, enabling us all to connect, enjoy and share memorable experiences. Having Glasgow Film Festival in our calendar not only further strengthens Scotland’s position as a world-leading events and film festival destination, but it showcases our proud tradition of celebrating cinema and the arts throughout the country.”

Glasgow Life Chair, Bailie Annette Christie, said:

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival demonstrates why the event is renowned internationally by audiences and filmmakers alike and is such a hugely popular highlight of our city’s cultural calendar.

“Reinforcing Glasgow’s passion for and expertise in the film, TV and creative industries, and reflecting the city’s reputation as a leading destination for cinema and filming, GFF is a significant asset to Glasgow - driving tourism, attracting thousands of visitors, and contributing millions of pounds to our economy.

“The outstanding success of GFF23 is testament not only to the quality and breadth of its extensive, exciting programme but also to the dedication, professionalism and enthusiasm of the Festival Co-Directors, Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter, and their Festival and GFT teams. We are indebted to them for making this year’s event such a triumph. Our special thanks also go to Allan, as he steps down from the role he has held since 2007, for all he has done to nurture Glasgow Film Festival from humble beginnings to an award-winning celebration of the very best of world cinema.”

Ryan Cairns, Marketing Executive for Belhaven Brewery, said:

“It was an honour to be able to attend and present an award at the Glasgow Film Festival. Congratulations to Riceboy Sleeps for receiving the Audience Award and to all of the entries for the category. It was amazing to see so many people enjoying our Belhaven beers, as we truly believed times shared together are the best, and nothing is better than celebrating great work and people.”

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