Preview: Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Preview: Glasgow Film Festival 2021

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival begins next week and, like so many other festivals during the pandemic, has moved entirely online. Yet that hasn’t stopped the team gathering together a collection of acclaimed and audience-friendly movies. Moreover, you don’t need to be in Glasgow to enjoy the festival this year – a small silver lining in the Covid-19 cloud – with filmgoers able to access premieres for their homes.

Opening the festival is one of biggest awards contenders this season, Minari. Already nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, it has a distinct shot at Oscar glory in April – possibly echoing the success of Parasite last year. Written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, this semi-autobiographical drama tells of a Korean-American family in the early 1980s, trying to make ends meet on a small farm in rural Arkansas. Starring Steven Yeun (of The Walking Dead fame) as the father, it’s a gentle and sweet-natured film that could charm the birds from the trees.

Talking of smallholdings, the documentary Gunda will also steal your heart. A highly observational portrait of farmyard life, Vikor Kossakovsky’s film is shot in startling black-and-white on farms in Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, although you’d never know it – it feels seamless. The camera quietly brings the daily lives of several creatures into sharp focus, notably the titular sow, who has hungry mouths to feed. The film is executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix, and if there’s ever a film to turn you vegan, this is it.

Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald also presents his new movie The Mauritanian, which is also featuring in this year’s Berlin Film Festival that begins online in early March. Tahar Rahim, seen recently in the BBC drama The Serpent, stars as Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the man who became the longest-held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. The film tracks his incarceration, when he was subjected to torture, and the attempts to free him by his legal team – played here by Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley.

Another horrifying true story comes in the shape of The Dissident, the new documentary from Bryan Fogel, who previously won the Oscar for Icarus, his doc about doping in sports. This latest effort catalogues the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in his own country’s embassy in Istanbul in October 2018. The film forensically digs into the story and the aftermath as Khashoggi’s brave fiancée Hatice Cengiz has continued to seek justice.  

Ben Sharrock’s Limbo also comes highly recommended. Originally selected for Cannes, the film has since been welcomed to a number of festivals – and rightly so. Amir El-Masry plays musician Omar, a Syrian refugee who is awaiting news on his request for asylum status whilst living with others in a halfway house in the Scottish Highlands. A wry but poignant look at a very real issue, adeptly handled by Sharrock, it’s one of many powerful films at this year’s GFF.


The Glasgow Film Festival runs online until 7 March. For more details, click here.

James Mottram