Women filmmakers might have been snubbed by the Oscars, Golden Globes and Baftas, but Glasgow Film Festival is out to champion them as never before.

For the first time in the event’s 16-year history, the opening and closing films are written and directed by women. 

The curtain raiser on February 26 is Alice Winocour’s Proxima, starring Eva Green as an astronaut preparing to leave her young daughter for a year.

The festival closes on March 8 with How to Build a Girl, journalist Caitlin Moran’s semi-autobiographical account of growing up in Wolverhampton.

Also in the programme, published yesterday, is Mark Cousins’ 14-hour documentary, Women Make Film. 

The GFF’s initiative comes as the major awards have been criticised for not including women in the most prestigious categories.

The best director shortlists at the Baftas, taking place this Sunday in London, and the Oscars, are all-male, with noted filmmakers such as Greta Gerwig, helmer of Little Women, left out.

Festival co-directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter made their selection before the current row. 

The quality of the films dictated the choices, not necessarily that they were directed by women, said Ms Gardner. 

They could have opted for the 50:50 route, but that is a hard target to meet when only 10 per cent of feature films are made by women.

Glasgow’s festival takes place in a crowded calendar. Sundance is happening now, the Dublin and Berlin events are staged around the same time as Glasgow’s, before Cannes in May, Edinburgh in June, then Venice and London.
Gardner said Glasgow stands out because the focus has stayed firmly on audiences, despite a growing industry programme. 

“The majority of the industry in Scotland is based in Glasgow so that’s a great way to help people, share knowledge, and meet each other. But the audience that watch the films is the really important thing. We started off with a very broad programme and we’ve encouraged people to take chances.” 

Free events this year include Call the Midwife writer Andrea Gibb discussing adapting books for the screen, Paul Inglis, fresh from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, explaining the role of art director, and screenings of dystopian classics including Logan’s Run.

Ms Gardner and Mr Hunter make a point of introducing the films whenever they can, and being around for any feedback. 

“Occasionally people will say things to me like, ‘Oh God, that was a terrible film, I really didn’t like that, Allison’. I’ll say, ‘Allan chose that one.’ But most people will tell you why they didn’t like it, so that’s something. They are not just being negative.”

Mr Hunter added: “You get nice comments, people saying that’s the most amazing thing they’ve seen all year.”

Ms Gardner advises cinemagoers to choose 10 movies. “I guarantee that at least eight of them will be things you’ve never seen before and will be brilliant.”

Half the audience hails from Glasgow with the remainder from the rest of Scotland, the UK and further afield. 

Mr Hunter said the 2020 programme was designed to be a “voyage of discovery” with picks from around the world.

“I think audiences will love the range and depth of exciting new talents we’ve chosen, from the moving Sudanese drama You Will Die at 20 to the brilliant Isaac from Lithuania and the outstanding reckoning with Guatemala’s past in Our Mothers.”

It has been two years since the “Beast from the East” snowstorm shut the doors of the festival for the first time. Despite the weather at this time of year there are no plans to move the date. 

“People say they consider us the first sign of spring,” jokes Mr Hunter. “They can start to get out and about in the world again.” 

Guests walking the red carpet at Glasgow this year include George Mackay, star of Oscar nominated 1917 but appearing at the festival in The True History of the Kelly Gang, an adaptation of Peter Carey’s Booker winner. 

Also heading north are the Cannes best actress winner Emily Beecham with Sulphur and White, and Celia Imrie and Bill Paterson, stars of the romantic comedy Love Sarah.

Guests are great, says Ms Gardner, but so is bringing first or second time directors in front of audiences for Q&As. “They love it when the audience ask great questions. That’s worth two minutes on a red carpet to me.”

Tickets go on sale at noon tomorrow  for GFF members and GFT Cinecard holders. General sales open at noon on February 3. Contact glasgowfilm.org/festival or 0141 332 6535