Festival Preview: UK Green Film Festival, 20-22 May 2011, Glasgow Film Theatre

Paul F Cockburn 10 May, 2011 0

The inaugural UK Green Film Festival bursts into life from 20 to 22 May at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT).

The new event, the brainchild of Chris Brown and John Long of sustainable property investment company Igloo, aims to bring issues surrounding the environment and climate change to a wider audience through a weekend of films, workshops, debates and Q&A hosted by five independent cinemas across mainland Britain.

It’s a way of engaging audiences in what we think are the main issues of the day, in a way that challenges and informs, but that people can actually respond to, John Long explained to ReelScotland. The films are good films in their own right; they’re well-made, they’re beautiful, they’re entertaining ” and I don’t think ˜beautiful’ and ˜entertaining’ are things usually associated with climate change.

Green Festival logoThe concept of the festival chimes with the GFT’s own attempts to be as ˜green’ as possible ” whether that’s ensuring energy efficiency in its building, brochures printed on paper from sustainable forests, or the scheduling of environment-issue films unlikely to reach any other cinema screen in the city. Although that habit, as it turned out, did contribute to a slight rethink of the festival.

We found that we had already shown quite a few of the movies that they were proposing, explained GFT Director Jaki McDougall. So, while I think the original intention was to have the five different cinemas showing the same programme over the same weekend, what has actually happened is that every cinema has pitched a festival line-up that meets the demands of its individual audience.

So, for example, the GFT has passed on reshowing 2009 film The Age of Stupid, starring the late Pete Postlethwaite, but does include the UK premieres for both Planeat, a film about humanity’s love of meat and dairy, and photographer Joe Cornish’s With Landscape in Mind, which takes its audience on a coast to coast trip across the north of England.

In fact, the only film at the GFT-based festival which has not been made in the last two years is BFI National Archive-restored The Great White Silence, the 1924 documentary made by the official photographer and cinematographer on Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to reach the South Pole.

As part of the weekend the GFT has linked up with several city-based organisations, including Impact Arts ” participants in their Eco Chic Fashion Freak and Home Project will be setting up shop in the upstairs bar during the weekend ” and the One World Shop. For those looking to relax between films, the best beer in Glasgow will also be available to sample, courtesy of independent brewery WEST.

There is already a determination that this new festival will not be a one-off event. This weekend, we’ll be looking to put the word out to local groups that they can actually be involved in shaping it next year ” not just turning up and doing a stall or a workshop, but helping us suggest the films, put it together and put the word out, McDougall added. We try to do that with a lot of what we do; we’re not just sitting here going ˜This’ll be good for Glasgow, we’ll show it.’ We’re always responsive to feedback from our audiences.

So where did the idea of a multi-venue UK Green Film Festival come from?

We often have a focus on creative industries, on local people and local business, John Long explained. It just so happens that, within our portfolio, we’ve got two independent cinemas ” Phoenix Square in Leicester and Shortwave on Bermondsey Square, London. Chis and I both love film, and we’re doing what we do in Igloo because we’ve got a passion for the environment. Actually, it’s slightly embarrassing how long it took us to put two and two together.

Could they organise a weekend of films in those cinemas that tackled important issues about climate change, but in a way that was interesting, engaging and entertaining? They were sure they could. We don’t have any direct say in what those two cinemas play, Long insisted, but we know them well and they were up for it. And then we thought ” why just two cinemas?

Given that neither Long nor Brown had any previous experience organising a film festival, and were essentially starting from scratch, the pair quickly decided to initially focus on contacting independent cinemas in cities where there was an existing Igloo-supported scheme or project. It meant Chris or I would be there at some point, Long said, and that we had people locally who we could draw on to help run events and get involved.

The exception, as it turned out, was north of the border. In Glasgow we don’t trade directly as Igloo, but we have a joint venture with British Waterways called ISIS, John added. A colleague recommended we got in touch with the Glasgow Film Theatre.

According to Jaki McDougall, it made sense for the GFT to get involved. We show a lot of issue-based movies and documentaries across the rest of the year, she said, so for us it’s an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the Green and environmental issues and also highlight that you can see that work all year round here at the GFT.

Tickets for individual shows £7 (£5.50 concessions) or a Full Festival Pass costs £30 (£26); you can see four films with a GFT Season Pass for £22 (£18).

The participating cinemas across the UK are: Chapter (Cardiff), GFT (Glasgow), Hyde Park Picture House (Leeds), Phoenix Square (Leicester) and Shortwave (Bermondsey Square, London).