10 to see at Glasgow Film Festival 2023

New films from Carol Morley and Lav Diaz, and a restrospective of Lee Grant’s vital documentaries, are among the hot tickets from this year’s stacked programme.

27 February 2023

By Josh Slater-Williams

Girl (2023)

Back for its 19th edition, the 2023 Glasgow Film Festival – taking place from 1 to 12 March – will host 70 UK premieres, six world premieres, 16 European or international premieres, and six Scottish premieres at Glasgow Film Theatre, the city’s giant Cineworld and other venues across the city.

The festival opens and closes with the UK premieres of two debut features that just launched to considerable acclaim at Sundance. The opening night gala is dedicated to Girl, Adura Onashile’s Glasgow-shot story about a mother-daughter bond becoming fraught in a new environment, influenced by the matriarch’s struggle with a legacy of violence. Onashile recently made waves with BAFTA-nominated short Expensive Shit (2020).

Closing the festival is action-comedy Polite Society, directed by We Are Lady Parts creator Nida Manzoor. In it, British Pakistani schoolgirl Ria (Priya Kansara) dreams of a career as a stuntwoman, while also being suspicious of her big sister’s abrupt abandoning of her dreams to marry someone she barely knows. Something doesn’t add up… but is kidnapping your sister on her wedding day the right move?

Minus the two bookending films, here are 10 further festival highlights on our radar. As always, this isn’t an exhaustive selection and there’s plenty of films to discover in the festival’s full programme.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2022)

While this year’s GFF doesn’t have much in the way of virtual offerings like last year, viewers elsewhere in the UK will still have an opportunity to see two hotly anticipated titles. Léa Mysius’s The Five Devils, starring Adèle Exarchopoulos, will have GFF-sponsored previews in Belfast, London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Cardiff and more locations. That’s also the case for eco-activism thriller How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which will play at BFI Southbank, among other venues. Directed by Daniel Goldhaber, following his well-reviewed Blumhouse production Cam (2018), this explosive tale has been garnering significant buzz since its world premiere at Toronto in the autumn.


Each year, GFF devotes one strand of its programme to spotlighting new exciting cinema from a specific country or region. This year, it’s the turn of Spain, and one promising highlight of the selection is Lullaby, a recent recipient of three Goya Awards from 11 nominations, including lead actress for Laia Costa. She stars as a new mother venturing to visit her parents for advice during a period of absence for her partner.

God’s Creatures

Ahead of its upcoming cinema release, GFF presents the UK premiere of five-time BIFA nominee God’s Creatures, directed by Anna Rose Holmer and Saela Davis. Set in a fishing village, the tense cover-up drama gives us Emily Watson’s first leading film role in quite some time, with her starring alongside man of the moment Paul Mescal and The Nightingale breakout Aisling Franciosi.


Chevalier (2022)

From one of the key writers of Atlanta, Stefani Robinson, comes Chevalier: a lightly fictionalised take on the extraordinary true story of Joseph Bologne, a virtuoso violinist and composer whose legacy was largely and actively erased by racist French policy not long after his time. Set in the lead-up to the French revolution, it stars Kelvin Harrison Jr as Bologne – born the illegitimate son of an African slave and a wealthy French plantation owner – who went on to become a confidant of Marie Antoinette before eventually assisting in the royal family’s downfall.

Down and Out in America

Down and Out in America (1986)

Repertory highlights at GFF this year include a series of free morning screenings concerning stories of women taking charge and setting off to forge their own path – eg It Happened One Night (1934), Vagabond (1985) and Thelma & Louise (1991). One woman who absolutely forged her own path many times throughout a storied career is actor-director Lee Grant, whose output as a documentarian is the subject of another retrospective in the programme. The five-film selection includes portraits of incarcerated women (When Women Kill), domestic violence (Battered), striking workers (The Willmar 8) and trans people navigating ’80s America (What Sex Am I?). An Oscar winner for best documentary, Reagan-era study Down and Out in America makes a good entry point.

Dog Days

Dog Days (2023)

Affectionately labelled “the Springburn Scorsese” in the programme, local filmmaker James Price has been a regular favourite of the separate Glasgow Short Film Festival, which takes place later in the year. His feature-length latest is among the world premiere selection of this year’s GFF: a big-hearted drama about music and redemption, set in Dundee.

Typist Artist Pirate King

Typist Artist Pirate King (2022)

Receiving its UK premiere on International Women’s Day, Carol Morley’s latest presents an imaginative insight into the life of late artist Audrey Amiss. The great Monica Dolan plays her in the film, with Kelly Macdonald as the mental health carer accompanying Amiss on a road trip to Sunderland.

When the Waves Are Gone

When the Waves Are Gone (2022)

Is a year in film really complete without a new Lav Diaz work on the festival circuit? The Filipino independent filmmaker has made some of the longest narrative features on record, though When the Waves Are Gone is one of his shortest to date, clocking in at a tiny three hours and seven minutes. It’s reportedly also one of his most accessible offerings, charting the journey to a showdown between a police officer at a moral crossroads and the corrupt former superior who he put behind bars.


Sanctuary (2022)

The jury’s still out on whether the erotic thriller is making a proper comeback, but one genre that’s definitely been in vogue since the pandemic started is the chamber piece. Sanctuary – which sees disaster ensue when a wealthy client tries to end his relationship with his dominatrix – would seem to combine the two to promising ends.


Band (2022)

GFF is well-known for its live music events tied to screenings. While an anniversary showing of Under the Skin with a live performance of the score sold out nearly immediately, it’s not the only opportunity to pair a film with live sight and sound this year. Charting the amusing misfortunes of an Icelandic female punk collective, one of the two screenings of Band will be accompanied by a gig featuring local female and non-binary artists, as well as the group from the film itself: The Post Performance Blues Band.

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