Saturday, 16 February 2008

GFF: It's a date; Leonardo Dicaprio, roses and the end of the world- by Emma Lennox

Feb 14th, Valentine's day, but no need to check the mail box, I've got my plan sorted not only for tonight but for the next ten days; the Glasgow International Film festival has begun. So while the restaurants were filling with a growing sense of obligation and expense the more savvy, independently minded folk were heading to either the opening Gala film; Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, or the Leonardo Dicaprio produced buzz kill the 11th Hour. Which to choose? The Cassandra's Dream screening was accompanied with goodie bags for every film goer, including a small taster of whisky, an issue of the quality magazine The Skinny, and a romantic red rose. The 11th Hour screening was accompanied by the uncomfortable sensation that the hippies have been right all along, and not even pop can save us. Which to choose? Cassandra's Dream stars the very much still attractive and lovely Ewan McGregor and the Irish rogue, that you just would, Colin Farrell. The 11th Hour stars uniquely bearded and bespectacled scientists with facts of how we're killing ourselves and bringing down most other living species with us. Of course Dicaprio makes a welcome appearance too, generally looking around at the world before summing up to camera what the scientists have just told us; we're screwed. Which to choose? Cassandra's Dream had sold out. Damn, well, I prefer documentaries anyway. There was good news, however, when festival director Allison Gardner announced before the screening that there would be a champagne reception after the film, and that everyone was invited. Things were looking up, and then the lights went down, the projector started and it was the end of the world.

If a film were needed to explain to an alien race just what planet Earth is like then the 11th Hour is a good place to start, NASA should start firing out DVDs to random corners of the galaxy just in case an alien civilisation out there has a DVD player. The documentary uses beautiful and scenic found footage to give an overview of the entire planet; the habitats, the cultures, the species and the incredible landscapes. These pictures alone make it worth while watching on the large cinema screen. Much of the rest of the film is taken up with over 50 interviews of notable environmentalists and scientists including Stephen Hawkings, and Nobel Peace Prize winning Dr Wangari Maathai. It starts off good; we are nature, nature is amazing, therefore we are amazing. This quickly subsides into: we are greedy, natural resources aren't abundant, therefore we are digging ourselves into an early and polluted mass grave.

In comparison to the Oscar winning An Inconvenient Truth, the 11th Hour has a less personal but wider focus. It covers the entire history of the planet, the growth of our civilisation, how the industrial era has caused irreparable damage and how economics and globalisation is blinding us to the needs of the world. Inevitably there is the feeling that a lot of information is being skimmed to cram it all in; just one of these facts could warrant a film of its own. The doom saying gets a bit relentless until the design futurists start to tell us of some solutions. Suddenly a utopian world where buildings act like trees and power themselves, cars can click together and night clubs use dance power (at least that's what the graphic looked like) is spread out before us. There may be some hope after all. Ignore the American bias and the intrusive soundtrack and 11th Hour is an intelligent and rewarding watch.

A quick round of high fives with friends for having energy saving light bulbs (they do make a difference), and it was time to party. With free wine and champagne flowing, it was easy to celebrate the ruin of our civilisation/ exciting plant furnished future depending on what side of the optimist/ pessimist divide you fall. A pretty array of make up and make up artists were on hand, presumably to ensure no one was offensively unattractive at this glamorous event, and Belle and Sebastian added some indie cool at the cosmo cafe turntables. Over 500 trendsters were milling about, with Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter available to discuss the intricacies of eye shadow or the Italian film industry, whichever you thought most appropriate. A blurry and less free after party followed in Bath street before the film fanatics frolicked into the night to plan their next day's cine-fest. And did I check my mail box when I rolled back to my flat at 2am? Well the post isn't very good around here anyway.

GFF photos by David Grinly

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