Glasgow Film Festival announces 2021 programme

Highlights include World premiere of ‘Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché’ and the return of Arrow Video FrightFest!

“During the current restrictions where we can’t enjoy events in person, the festival’s programme plays a hugely important role in enabling us to gain new perspectives, experience new soundtracks and scores, meet new characters and learn new global stories from the comfort of our own homes.” – Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events.

Glasgow Film Festival (GFF) today announces the full programme for its 2021 festival, with screenings hosted on Glasgow Film’s new online viewing platform Glasgow Film At Home. The programme contains 6 World premieres, 2 European premieres and 49 UK premieres. GFF is committed to bringing incredible cinema from filmmakers all around the world to its audiences. Tickets will go on sale from 12 noon on Monday 18 January online. More information is available at

Originally planned as a hybrid in-cinema and online festival, GFF21 will now take place online only, due to the lockdown restrictions affecting most of Scotland and the rest of the UK. The festival will open on Wednesday 24 February with Lee Isaac Chung’s autobiographical drama following a Korean-American family Minari, starring The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, and close on Sunday 7 March with Suzanne Lindon’s debut feature Spring Blossom, a coming-of-age tale set against a dreamy Parisian backdrop.

This year’s Industry programme will run online between Monday 1 and Saturday 6 March. GFF are thrilled to announce a new scheme to support filmmakers around the UK, aged under 30, to access its full Industry programme for just £10, sponsored by MUBI. Passes are limited and GFF actively encourage applications from individuals currently under-represented in the screen industries, which includes writers, directors, and producers from ethnic minority backgrounds, disabled and D/deaf people, the LGBTIQI+ community, and women. Industry passes are available to purchase now at The full programme of Industry events will be announced on Tuesday 9 February.

Allison Gardner, CEO of Glasgow Film and Glasgow Film Festival Co-director, said:

“Glasgow Film Festival 2021 may look different to previous years, but what has not changed is the quality of incredible films from across the world that we are bringing to our audiences. The programme is filled with gems, but a few of my highlights must include Ben Sharrock’s bewitching tale of a refugee in Scotland Limbo, charming coming-of-age romance Sweetheart, Mads Mikkelsen’s stand-out performance in Riders of Justice and stunning and compelling documentary BIG vs SMALL.”

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

“Everyone is staying indoors and keeping safe and we are really excited that the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival can play its part in the home viewing landscape. A terrific selection of new features honours the Glasgow tradition of discovering gems from around the world and showcasing the very finest home-grown productions. Among the many highlights I would single out are an exceptional selection of documentaries led by Frederick Wiseman’s majestic City Hall and Sonia Kenneback’s riveting Enemies Of The State, dazzling first features from talents to watch that include Danish thriller Shorta and the beguiling romance Jumbo, and new works from Festival favourites including Iciar Bollain’s romantic charmer Rosa’s Wedding.”

Scottish highlights

GFF are delighted to welcome back Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter (Flint, GFF 2020) for the World premiere of Eye of the Storm, which follows one of Scotland’s most gifted painters, James Morrison, through the last two years of his life. With animation from Catriona Black and a soundtrack from Karine Polwart, the result is a fond, affectionate portrait of the man and his legacy. As a festival that has always been strongly rooted in its home city Glasgow, we are excited to bring the UK premiere of Creation Stories to its audiences. Written by Irvine Welsh and starring GFF favourite Ewen Bremner, Creation Stories charts the rise of the infamous founder of Creation Records, Alan McGee. Directed by Nick Moran, the incredible cast includes Jason Isaacs, Suki Waterhouse and Rebecca Root. Creation Stories will be available on Sky Cinema from March 20. 

Yer Old Faither, from Adelaide Fringe director Heather Croall receives its UK premiere. Narrated by playwright and actor Gary McNair, it explores the life of her father, Glaswegian John Croall, who moved to Australia in 1970 and bought hundreds of children into the world as a local obstetrician. Stacey Lee’s uplifting documentary Underplayed is an intimate and revealing look at gender inequality in the electronic dance music scene, which features the city of Glasgow and local DJ Nightwave. David Whitney’s Killing Escobar reconstructs Scottish mercenary and ex-SAS operative Peter McAleese’s mission to assassinate Pablo Escobar, as McAleese, now 78, reflects on his demons.

Bridging the Gap – Turbulence will showcase four shorts from the Scottish Documentary Institute’s emerging talent initiative including: Against the Tide; Harmonic Spectrum; Racing Stock and Venus & Mars. They are joined by Limbo, which was supported by the BFI Film Fund and is the second feature from Scottish director Ben Sharrock and the first feature film to ever shoot in Uist – a wry, bewitching comedy following a Syrian refugee (Amir El-Masry) who finds himself in a refugee centre on a remote Scottish island; and an extended edition of Iorram (Boat Song), the first feature documentary filmed entirely in Scottish Gaelic. Directed by the award-winning Alastair Cole and with an original score composed and performed by folk musician Aidan O’Rourke, it is a haunting evocation of life among the fishing communities of the Outer Hebrides.

World and European Premieres

Glasgow Film Festival continues to bring impressive World premieres to its audiences through its online platform. Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché brings to screen the life of ‘one of the least conventional front-persons in rock history’: Poly Styrene, founder of acclaimed punk band X-Ray Spex, co-directed by her daughter, Celeste Bell, and Paul Sng. In Luke White’s documentary, Handsome,Nicholas Bourne and his brother Alex set off on a journey to meet other siblings with Down’s Syndrome, as Nicholas prepares to become Alex’s full-time, dedicated carer. Marly Morrison’s knockout debut feature Sweetheart charts the relationship between two young women during a summer holiday; Darragh Carey and Bertrand Desrochers debut A Brixton Tale is a star-crossed romance confronting class, race and love in modern Britain; and Philippe McKie’s Dreams On Fire explores the underground dance community in Tokyo.

In 2010, former member of the Air National Guard and hacktivist Matt DeHart claimed the FBI had fabricated charges to silence him, later seeking political asylum in Canada. Sonia Kennebeck’s spellbinding documentary Enemies of the State receives its European premiere at GFF, using expert testimony, hard evidence and dramatised reconstructions to uncover a truth that is ‘rarely pure and never simple’.

UK Premieres

GFF will host 49 UK premieres including The Mauritanian, directed by Kevin Macdonald and based on the best-selling memoir by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, which tells the story of Slahi (played by Tahar Rahim), who was held for years in Guantanamo Bay. Jodie Foster takes on Benedict Cumberbatch in this true-life courtroom drama. Further homegrown highlights from the UK include Welsh thriller The Toll, starring Michael Smiley as a contented toll booth operator whose past shows up to haunt him. The cast also includes Annes Elwy and Iwan Rheon.

Kate Dickie joins the cast of Chino Moya’s Underdogs, set in a futuristic, dystopian Europe where stories and characters intertwine in the most doomed way possible. Set over 24 hours in London, Aneil Karia’s stripped-back thriller Surge sees Ben Wishaw give a standout performance that won the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting at Sundance Film Festival. Twenty-five years on, Steelers follows the fortunes of the world’s first gay rugby team, The Kings Cross Steelers.

This year we have an exciting new collaboration with Shanghai Film Festival, who are bringing two incredible films to its programme: Back to the Wharf from director Xiaofeng Li which follows the events of one day across the years as a star pupil (Yu Zhang) finds his university place given to another boy; and Yang Lina’s Spring Tide which charts the experiences of three generations of Chinese women living under one roof. GFF will then take a programme of Scottish cinema to Shanghai for the next edition of their festival in June 2021.

Even more must-see international features include Lawrence Michael Levine’s psychosexual drama Black Bear, a darkly comic tale starring Aubrey Plaza, Sarah Gadon and Christopher Abbott. Festival favourite Anders Thomas Jensen returns with Riders of Justice, starring Mads Mikkelsen as a military vet set on a path of revenge. Gagarine is a beguiling debut from directors Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh set in a Parisian housing estate earmarked for demolition. Estonia’s Oscar candidate for 2021, The Last Ones is a critique on capitalism set against the unforgiving landscapes of a remote Lapland village.

Winner of the Berlin Golden Bear, Mohammad Rasoulof’s anthology film There Is No Evil confronts the realities of live under an autocratic regime. The latest film from Icíar Bollaín, Rosa’s Wedding, is the feel-good comedy about becoming the most important person in your own life, even if that means marrying yourself. My Wonderful Wanda is a twisted comedy of manners as a privileged family find their lives changed forever by Polish single mother Wanda. Heather Young’s devastating debut Murmur is an acute portrait of a lonely life that welcomes in a pet’s unconditional love.

Chilling crime drama Wildland from debut director Jeanette Nordahl sees a teenager face overwhelming moral dilemmas as she learns the nature of her family business. Inspired by true events, Poppy Field follows a closeted police officer in Romania who is recognised when called to a protest at a queer film screening, Victim(s) is a powerful debut feature from Layla Zhuqing that offers a hard-hitting examination of teenage knife crime and Father is a celebration of everyday heroism charting one man’s journey to be reunited with his children. In the Shadows is a steampunk, dystopian vision from director Erdem Tepegöz.

Apples is the haunting debut feature from Greek director Christos Nikou, set during a mysterious pandemic which causes sudden amnesia. Mekong 2030 sees five Southeast Asian filmmakers present their visions and fears for the future in an anthology of stories focused on the Mekong River. Anna Kerrigan’s debut feature Cowboys, which won Best Screenplay and Best Actor in US Narrative Feature at Tribeca Film Festival, stars Steve Zahn as a father on a camping trip with his transgender son Joe (Sasha Knight).

Incredible documentaries to make you think include Cahiers du Cinéma’s 2020 film of the year, the latest landmark documentary from Fred Wiseman, City Hall, a love letter to civic responsibility and democratic values set in the heard of Boston’s city government. Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation is a poignant look at the complex relationship between two literary giants with Jim Parsons (Capote) and Zachary Quinto (Williams) giving voice to their words. Minna Dufton’s BIG vs SMALL profiles Portugal’s first female big wave surfer, ‘Tiny Fighter’ Joana Andrade. My Favourite War from director Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen is a fascinating coming-of-age story set against her childhood during Latvia’s Soviet rule at the height of the Cold War.

Country Focus

This year, GFF turns its ever-popular Country Focus to South Korea, with five incredible UK premieres, including Our Midnight, the debut feature from director Jung-eun Lim. Director Eui-jeong Hong’s Voices of Silence is a bittersweet crime caper about good people who do bad things, with an award-winning performance from Burning’s Yoo Ah-In. The Swordsman, from director Jae-Hoon Choi, blends epic fight scenes and heartfelt drama in a tale of skilled swordsman brought out of a life of hiding and seclusion for one last battle.

In Da Capo, a struggling musician returns to his hometown and rediscovers his passion for music while helping a former bandmate coach a rock band made up by her music school pupils. Directed by Chan-yang Shim, it is a tale full of warmth and hope for music lovers everywhere. Finally, South Korea’s 2021 Oscar candidate The Man Standing Next from director Min-ho Woo is a tense conspiracy thriller set in the final days of President Park Chung-hee’s (Sung-min Lee) rule in 1979. Korean intelligence chief Kim Gyu-pyeong (Byung-hun Lee) has sworn to serve, but his loyalty is tested to the limit in a key moment for South Korea’s history.

Audience Award nominees

The prestigious Audience Award – the only award given out at GFF and voted for by its most important guests, the festival audience – returns with six exceptional titles from first or second-time directors, 50% of which are from female filmmakers. The shortlist includes: Zoé Wittock’s intriguing Jumbo, starring Noémie Merlant from Portrait of a Lady on Fire as a young woman who works at an amusement park and falls in love with its newest attraction. Marly Morrison’s Sweetheart is a sharply observed coming-of-age story set at a holiday caravan park in Dorset.

Lili Horvát’s Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is a noir-tinged rumination on love and fate that travels from a New Jersey medical conference to the streets of Budapest. Nominated for International Critics Week Award at Venice, police thriller Shorta from directors Anders Ølholm and Frederik Louis Hviid explores tensions of stop and search and police brutality against a black teenager in Copenhagen’s notorious Svalegården ghetto.

Winner of the Best Irish Film at Galway Film Fleadh, Redemptions of a Rogue is the first feature from playwright Philip Doherty and among the blackest of comedies. Documentary Castro’s Spies from directors Ollie Aslin and Gary Lennon features in-depth interviews with the Cuban Five, an elite group of undercover agents operating out of Florida and hailed as the last soldiers of the Cold War.

The Glasgow Film Festival Audience Award 2021 is sponsored by Caledonian MacBrayne and the winner will be revealed online on March 7.

Arrow Video FrightFest

FrightFest returns to Glasgow Film Festival with six thrilling new titles for film fans looking for a good scare. American Badger, Kirk Caouette’s gritty and turbo-driven action thriller makes its European premiere. Five UK premieres complete the FrightFest programme, including Run Hide Fight, Kyle Rankin’s high school siege drama starring Isabel May; Out Of This World a compelling study of obsession from French director Marc Fouchard; Cody Calahan’s self-aware nostalgia-fest Vicious Fun which sees a film critic for a national horror magazine stumble into a secret, underground self-help group for serial killers; noir thriller The Woman With Leopard Shoes from debut director Alexis Bruchon; and Christopher Alender’s The Old  Ways, a terror tale taken from sinister Latin American folklore.

Glasgow Film Festival is made possible by support from Screen Scotland, the BFI (awarding funds from the National Lottery), Glasgow Life and EventScotland, part of VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.

Tickets for the programme will go on sale at noon on Monday 18 January at Titles will be available to view between 24 February and 7 March on online platform Glasgow Film At Home (, Glasgow Film’s streaming site, launched last year to provide a curated offering of titles available to watch online. It is free to create an account and users can pre-order the GFF21 premieres they want to watch during the festival.

❉ News source: Zoe Flower Publicity.

❉ We Are Cult is not responsible for the content of this news release.

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