Glasgow Film Festival 2021: ‘Sweetheart’ Scoops Audience Award

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Photo Source: BBC Films. Pictured – Jo Hartley and Ella-Rae Smith in Sweetheart

The 17th Glasgow International Film Festival (GFF) came to a close on Sunday 7 March, having drawn in a virtual audience of nearly 38,000 from across the UK and Ireland. With Britain still in lockdown due to the pandemic, the 12-day programme took place completely online but boasted 10 world, three European, and 49 UK premieres. The UK premiere of Lee Isaac Chung’s Golden Globe-winning Minari opened the festival on February 24, with Suzanne Lindon’s directorial debut Spring Blossom closings proceedings on Sunday night.

The annual GFF Audience Award-winner, sponsored by Caledonian MacBrayne, was awarded to Marley Morrison for her film Sweetheart, which had its world premiere at the festival. The coming-of-age story charts the relationship between two young women during a summer holiday at a caravan park in Dorset.

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Commenting on the win, Morrison said: “Wow! This is totally unexpected. It’s been an emotional and wild journey making this film, and to get this recognition from such an amazing festival, I’m hugely grateful.” She added: “Thank you to BFI, BBC films, and Film London for believing in the project. This award belongs to all the cast and crew who worked so hard to make the film what it is.”

Sweetheart producer Michelle Antoniades said in a statement, “Thank you to the GFF audience for opening their arms to this film, which was made on a micro-budget and a lot of love.

“We’re so grateful to everyone who was involved in the making of the film, especially our dedicated cast and crew, and a massive thank you to the teams at Film London and Glasgow Film Festival for your continued support of new UK filmmakers.”

Attendance was capped for every virtual screening but several titles were sold out, including Limbo, by Glaswegian filmmaker Ben Sharrock. Sharrock and Limbo star Amir El-Masry took part in post-screening Q&As along with 70 other filmmakers including Kevin Macdonald, Tahar Rahim, and Golden Globe-winner Jodie Foster for The Mauritanian as well as Nick Moran and Ewen Bremner for Creation Stories.

The festival is sharing ticket profits 50/50 with the filmmakers, distributors or sales agents and some titles are being made available to viewers to watch via Glasgow Film at Home until Wednesday March 10. Those films are There Is No Evil, Welcome To: Lineages of the Landscape, Gunda, The Man Standing Next, Killing Escobar, and Spring Blossom.

Allison Gardner, CEO of Glasgow Film (and GFF co-director), said, “Glasgow Film Festival 2021 has been another incredible year. Our team has pulled together a programme of quality cinema, reflected by the brilliant attendance and engagement of our audiences, both festival regulars, and new audiences from across the UK.

“We’ve had fantastic responses to our films, ranging from the sell-out World Premiere of Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché, to one of my personal highlights, empowering documentary BIG vs SMALL. We can’t wait to welcome audiences and filmmakers back to our home in the Glasgow Film Theatre for our next edition in 2022.”

The GFF Industry Focus saw over 400 delegates, attending panels with a focus on diversity and representation, accessibility, and how the film industry is moving forward during the Covid-19 pandemic. Guests included a spotlight interview with Oscar-winning screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns as well as Instagram Live chats with filmmakers John McPhail, Rachel Jackson, Ben Sharrock, and Eva Riley, each highlighting films created by filmmakers under 30 in the programme. 

“We have all been overwhelmed by the response to this year’s festival. Audiences old and new have embraced the wide-ranging, carefully curated program, allowing GFF to spread its wings across the whole of the United Kingdom,” Allan Hunter, Glasgow Film Festival Co-director, said.

“It has been fantastic to see the results of a great team effort rewarded in this way. It has been a real thrill for filmmakers to witness all the love and support for their work. It has all felt like some bright, warming sun amidst the global gloom and has underlined once again that Glasgow audiences are simply the best.”

The festival will return in 2022 from 2–13 March.

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