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.
Le'Shantey Bonsu & Adura Onashile (Girl) by Eoin Carey & Amy Muir
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.
Peter Mullan & James Price (Dog Days) by Amy Muir
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.
Allan Hunter & standing ovation by Eoin Carey
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 GFF 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”.
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”.
Allison Gardener and Allan Hunter by Eoin Carey
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 https://athome.glasgowfilm.org/ 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.”
Information on GFF
Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) is firmly established as a highlight of the UK's cultural calendar and a core event for the UK film industry. Established in 2005, GFF has grown greatly in significance, is now a key launching pad for films and one of the top film festivals in the UK. GFF continues to grow and develop its international reputation. Held annually, it presents a unique programme of feature film premieres, special events, live and interactive experiences, and an Industry Focus programme for filmmakers at every stage of their career.
GFF was named the Big Screen Event of the Year at Screen International’s Big Screen Awards in November 2022 for achieving a record high of 73% audience capacity at its first in-person edition post-Covid.
Previous GFF guests include Richard Gere, Alan Rickman, John C. Reilly, Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay, Richard Dreyfuss, Karen Gillan, Jessie Buckley, Sir. Michael Palin, Josh O'Connor, Ben Wheatley, Armando Iannucci, Jack O’Connell, Dexter Fletcher, Peter Mullan, George Sluizier, Peter Capaldi, Ty West, Richard Ayoade, David Dastmalchian, Eli Roth and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. www.glasgowfilm.org/festival
Information on GFF’s major funders:
About the BFI Audience Fund
The BFI Audience Fund invests £5.6m of National Lottery funding each year to expand access and encourage greater enjoyment of cinema by connecting audiences with great films - in venues, at events and online. We do this by supporting:
leading exhibition organisations, including film festivals, to deliver culturally rich and nationally significant programmes and events on a year round basis
projects which help exhibitors and distributors bring the best of UK and international cinema to audiences across the UK through events, distribution releases, multiplatform distribution proposals, touring film programmes and more
initiatives that address under-representation and are innovating audience development
We are a cultural charity, a National Lottery distributor, and the UK’s lead organisation for film and the moving image. Our mission is:
To support creativity and actively seek out the next generation of UK storytellers
To grow and care for the BFI National Archive, the world’s largest film and television archive
To offer the widest range of UK and international moving image culture through our programmes and festivals - delivered online and in venue
To use our knowledge to educate and deepen public appreciation and understanding
To work with Government and industry to ensure the continued growth of the UK’s screen industries.
Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.
The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Tim Richards.
Screen Scotland is the national body that drives development of all aspects of Scotland’s film and TV industry, through funding and strategic support. Screen Scotland is part of Creative Scotland and delivers these services and support with funding from Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Find out more at screen.scot and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Glasgow Life is a charity working for the benefit of the people of Glasgow. We believe everyone deserves a great Glasgow life and we find innovative ways to make this happen across the city’s diverse communities.
Our programmes, experiences and events range from grassroots community activities to large-scale cultural, artistic and sporting events which present Glasgow on an international stage. Our work is designed to promote inclusion, happiness and health, as well as support the city’s visitor economy, in order to enhance Glasgow’s mental, physical and economic wellbeing.
For more information, visit www.glasgowlife.org.uk
EventScotland is the national events agency. EventScotland is working to make Scotland the perfect stage for events. By developing an exciting portfolio of sporting and cultural events EventScotland is helping to raise Scotland’s international profile and boost the economy by attracting more visitors. For further information about EventScotland, its funding programmes and latest event news visit www.EventScotland.org. Follow EventScotland on Twitter @EventScotNews. EventScotland is a team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, the national tourism organisation which markets Scotland as a tourism destination across the world, gives support to the tourism industry and brings sustainable tourism growth to Scotland. For more information about VisitScotland see www.visitscotland.org
Established in 1719, Belhaven Brewery is the oldest working brewery in Scotland. Situated on the coast in Dunbar, East Lothian, just 20 miles from Edinburgh, it has a proud brewing heritage and a dedicated team making beers the traditional way, bursting with Scottish character. As the home of Scottish brewing, Belhaven prides itself in producing the nation’s number 1 ale (Belhaven Best) and Number 1 Stout (Belhaven Black), alongside an award-winning range of craft beers and ales. All Belhaven beers use 100% Scottish malted barley, local well water and unique Belhaven yeast.