Glasgow Film Festival and Being Watched


I wanted to come back to report excitedly about my experience. I say on my other blog how I rate the Glasgow Film Theatre – which I chose to start that blog off – which is the chief venue and organising body for the festival.


What I’m most left with is not the films I saw, which I will review below. I was only able to see a couple, but I was annoyed by a woman in the queue who chastised my effort for not seeing more – like her, who’d come to something each day. I told her I’d travelled 500 miles (like the native Proclaimers) so I’d made a considerable commitment.


The aspect I remember most was two informational statements, not mentioned previously, so I’d travelled my 500 miles and bought my tickets BEFORE seeing this.


The brochure – which didn’t arrive in the post – warns you that there’ll be promotional photography. It doesn’t say what the posters in the cinema do – that it’s assumed you give you consent for your face to be used publicly by being there.


This happens too often – from campaign meetings to concerts, the intrusive camera appears. Did I sign up for this? And you should never do so by default, or by tiny small print that you have to chase round the website for but isn’t on printed materials.


With the prevalence of social media, we can feel compromised. The right not to appear on a photo and the right to know where and how it’ll be used are common courtesy and ethics of photography. I attended a wedding where the invitations asked that we didn’t put photos on social media. I admired my friends and gladly complied – I’ve made a decision to stop using those sites (I share why on this blog). We’re obsessed with gaining permission for children’s photos, but it seems that adults are the reverse.


Well, I do control my image and have the right to know where it is – as well as the sound of my voice. Asking a question shouldn’t mean I am being recorded and pasted on YouTube.


You can see how this can be misused – the violent ex partner, the unscrupulous debt collector (that’s most of them in my view, by essence), the nosy and the creepy in your life. And it makes our government’s spying easier. They can see who speaks out at conferences, who supports subversively political films, and who on benefits seems to have the money for things they consider frivoloous.


The other part is related and is even worse. We’re used to seeing warnings as a film starts regarding people filming for piracy. We’re used to those long adverts at the start of DVDs – preaching to the converted, we’re already watching a legit copy!


Those of us attending cinema and especially film festivals are supporting the industry and care about it. Like music, I abhor rip off copies. I want the artists to get their rightful dues (not the fat cat companies so much). I am an artist myself. I know that living from your craft is often difficult and that you want fair remuneration and control over your long labours.


But I don’t need to be filmed in the cinema on low light cameras whose red eyes like a malevolent spider utterly spoiled the film felt . An arts cinema too – ‘cinema for all’, a well loved community cinema. A cinema that represents and proud and free thinking city.


We’re sick too of searches – hence I didn’t pop in the BBC/Concert Halls on Candleriggs due to a sign “In the interests of security, we carry out searches on our visitors – thank your for your patience.” But it’s not [just] the waste of my time, it’s the intrusion that I mind. Why, from going to the Olympics to airports, parliaments and national museums (happily not Edinburgh’s) and clubbing do we get subjected to this – and why should we? The assumption that a few bad people have made us all suffer, that we won’t mind if we’re not up to anything, that it’s good that the people are being caught….

NO, none of that works. I am sick of the ugly cameras – cf the indie film Crimefighters, set in York – peering out, recording my image, detailing where I’ve been, what I wore, who I was with.

No nose scratches or pulling up your tights, no fumbles with your partner in film festivals.

And no, GFT, these cameras were not in any of the other many film festivals I have been to.

They say take piracy incredibly seriously. I take violations of my basic human rights incredibly seriously.

Worse than claims over preventing crime and terrorism (often which are political as much as for our safety), this is about money and property.

Ironically, there was a Surveillance strand at this year’s festival. The organisers don’t seem to see that irony. Arts are there for questioning as well as enjoyment. Why are you perpetrators of what you are exposing?


Oh, and the films. They are secondary now. Winter was about a Scottish drunkard with mental health issues – the lead actor was far better than those playing his “We’ve got special English theatre accent” sons, their lover and irritating psychiatrist mum. It showed how patronising and ineffectual mental health services can be, but then the outcome seemed to support the procedures. Starting late didn’t help my enjoyment either. The last time I came to GFF, a film was 40 mins longer than advertised and really messed up my day.


I saw a largely excellent film called The All/Brand New Testament. God is living in Belgium with his wife and daughter. Jesus is a statue who talks to his sister – the actual Jesus seems to be missing, from the family table at least. God is a bully, working in a huge secret office on a computer, creating suffering and enjoying doing so. When his daughter finds out, she confronts him and he beats her, and she breaks into the computer again and does something that starts the world changing… She calls her own disciples and writes their stories. Meanwhile, God is giving chase via the magic washing machine she escaped out of, but he doesn’t do too well in the real world. And Mrs God is having a spring clean – which will change the universe as we know it. Sometimes facetious, very European, often funny, sometimes profound (though not as often as it might have been) and with an excellent ending.


I’d like to see some spring cleaning and a new computer program regarding our search and watch culture. How far do we let it go? When would we speak out? It’s already too far. GFT claimed that all this isn’t an issue with their audience. It ought to be – and if you mind about something, do say, and don’t let them be able to pretend that those who speak out are a minority.




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