Glasgow Film Festival is Championing Inclusivity- But It Refuses to Take Part in Tokenism


By Rachel Cronin

The 18th Glasgow Film Festival will run from 2 to 13 March, both in cinemas across the UK and online, with a limited number of films available from home. This will be the first ever hybrid Glasgow Film Festival, and the return of GFF cinema screenings after last year’s festival was exclusively online.

The resurrection of an in-cinema film festival experience has been highly anticipated, and GFF is expecting a bigger turn-out than ever after last year’s online festival had a total audience of more than 40,000.

The 2022 Glasgow Film Festival will feature 10 world premieres, 65 UK premieres and 13 Scottish premieres, to be shown in cinemas from London to Sheffield to Stornoway.

Festival Co-ordinator Allison Gardner explains how GFF has continued to adapt in fluctuating restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

She says, “It’s been like planning on quicksand. Last year was a unique and never-to-be-repeated set of circumstances that will- fingers crossed- never happen again.”

After the roaring success of 2021’s online GFF across the United Kingdom, the festival is set to remain a hybrid of both online and in-cinema film experiences in the years to come. Although not all films are available online, the event will remain to be as accessible and affordable as possible for people who may not have the spare change to buy cinema tickets.

Free screenings of the anthology ‘Winds of Change: Cinema in ‘62’ are available most mornings during the festival, where classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance will be shown, and the world premiere of Skint from Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee will be a ‘pay what you can’ event.

Still from Skint (James Mcleod)

Allison is passionate about GFF’s inclusivity when it comes to audience accessibility. She says, “Festivals often tend to be these elite monsters and we try to keep away from that.

“The heart of this organisation is our passion for cinema and our passion for audiences, and we really want to continue to make ‘Cinema for All’. That is our motto.’’

As well as making cinema an inclusive and accessible space for audiences, GFF22 is championing filmmakers of colour and women directors.

‘African Stories’ is a 9-film collection featured in this year’s festival that will shine a light on the history, culture and people of the continent. Some of the most anticipated titles of the anthology are Cathryne Czubek and Hugo Perez’s Once Upon A Time In Uganda and I Am Samuel, an LGBT film from Kenyan filmmaker Peter Murimi that will be available online for free.

Still from I am Samuel (James Mcleod)

“We look at films from a whole variety of cultures. Watching great films from across the world-walking in other people’s shoes, looking at other people’s culture, religions and hardships they endure in their life gives you more empathy, and we need more empathy in the world.” explains Allison.

Glasgow Film Festival also continues to champion women filmmakers. This year, a whopping 6/7 films nominated for the Audience Award- where the festival’s most important guests vote for a winner- were made by female filmmakers, and 2/3 of the directors featured in GFF22 are women.

This staggering achievement to help close the unequal gender gap in the industry is not a small one, but Allison urges us not to take the figures as false tokens of inclusivity.

She says, “I don’t care about percentages per se, because saying you feature 50% female and male directors is a marketing ploy.”

Allison believes that mindlessly filling gaps to reach ratios and targets is not the right way to help diversity and inclusion in the film industry.

She adds “I’m not interested in tokenistic numbers. I’m looking for great films, directed by women, that an audience will love. And I think this makes our choices genuine.”

Although Allison doesn’t believe in tokenism for the sake of tokenism, she is passionate about continuing to champion female talent in GFF and beyond.

“We do need more women directors in Scotland. We need more people of colour, we need people from working class backgrounds, and it’s our job to make that happen. The 6/7 films by women that were chosen for the Audience Award were chosen because they’re great films.

“Quality is always key, and quality is the driving force for any film in the festival, no matter the background or gender of the director.”

Glasgow Film Festival has continued to do what it can for inclusivity and accessibility in the industry, despite not having unlimited resources in the pandemic. In this spirit of fairness, Glasgow Film Theatre committed to paying all their staff 100% of their wages without making any redundancies in lockdown.

Gardner says, “These things are important to us because we’re a not-for-profit educational charity. All the money you spend with us goes back into making it better. I think it’s become more important after the pandemic to think locally and support those places that are there for you in your local community.

“You’re not paying for a giant Phillip Greene-style yacht for me. A dingy in Ardrossan harbour would do just fine!”