I’m coming at you from the ever beautiful yet perpetually wet Glasgow. (For those of you who don’t know, it’s in Scotland). This year marks the 8th annual Glasgow Film Festival and I am actually here to be apart of it. Me, a kid from Iowa who has never even been to a film festival back in the States. Well I guess I did go to Bonnaroo but that’s a music festival that happens to feature a movie tent so I’m not going to count that.
Oh right, you have absolutely no idea who I am. The name’s David Rowley but you can just call me Dive. Why Dive? I’ll make the story short and just say after a spot of Scotch I tend to desire a new identity which led to the grossly mispronunciation of David and an even worse Scottish-Irish hybrid accent.
Anyway…Glasgow Film Festival. This is quickly becoming on the primer film festivals in Scotland as well as the UK. What once saw 6,000 in attendance its first year – eight years ago – has now raised to 34,000 attendees last year with 42% of that number travelling from outside Glasgow. I know that’s a little bit of newsy nonsense but that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me. (I know you didn’t ask me…quiet!)
So here I am attempting to cover this festival, something I have never done before. You see the reason I’m here in Scotland is because I’m studying at the University of Glasgow. That was my initial in to the festival. The other was receiving an email from Harry saying he’d help me get accredited so I could see as many films as possible. I was laughing at myself when I emailed him the offer to send my coverage of the festival so when I got his response to go for it I was shocked. But enough gushing.
So what have I done with this opportunity? Well in no time at all I’ve managed to shoot myself in the foot. I broke the press coverage cardinal rule: Don’t piss off the people running the event.
After I heard back from Harry, I sent the GFF my credentials and all the information required for accreditation. I was told email was better than coming in and dropping off the paperwork. Makes sense. A few days go by and I haven’t heard anything, but there’s still two weeks before the festival starts so I wait. Another day or two pass and I resend the information mentioning I had sent things in already but perhaps they didn’t go to the right people. A week goes by and still no response. I send a third email explaining the festival begins in a week and I need to hear a response – yes or no – if I’m getting accredited.
It was after this third email I got a response from the coordinator of the press information and boy was it surly. She told me that at no time do they say they will respond quickly to emails (the website for the festival does, in fact, say they will respond in a timely manner) and not every person will be accredited (again, fully aware of that). After a serious text-lashing she concluded by offering me two tickets to a select list of films. Call me crazy but there is no way to cover a festival only seeing two movies.
Fortunately, the coordinator has an intern working with her. I found this young woman’s contact information and have since been talking with her about possibly getting in a few more films. At this point she has not yet been able to increase my tickets but she has alerted me to a few press screenings and the option of bowing a few of the festival films on DVD.
All in all this has been a rather eye opening experience for me. I’ve managed to make it to a few screenings thus far including The Raid and the festival’s opening film Your Sister’s Sister. When I arrived at the first press screening I had to sign in and got to meet the woman who – I presume – would rather me not be in attendance; “Oh so you’re David…” Yea, that’s not the greeting you want to hear. But I just push forward and do my best to avoid her and when I can’t do that smile like I’ve been huffing Joker’s laughing gas.
Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to cover more of this festival because it really is quite extraordinary with some wonderful films being shown. There’s something in the air here in Glasgow as everyone you seem to pass has a film on their tongue they’ve either just seen or will being seeing in the next week.
Enjoy the reviews and it’s been a pleasure making your acquaintance,
In perhaps one of the most anticipated films of the Glasgow Festival The Raid does not disappoint. From the first frame of the ticking watch it is clear that as long as this film may have been it seems so much longer. With a colour scheme that matches the hazy shades of winter, writer/director Gareth Evans creates some of the most heart-pumping action that has not been seen since the arrival of Tony Jaa and Ong-bak. But what that film lacked in story The Raid delivers, taking the time to make the account interesting. Yes, the action and choreography is brilliant but by the end of the film these characters deserve more than just to die for the audience’s entertainment.
In the heart of the Jakarta’s slums there is a colossal safe house inhabited by the some of the worlds most dangerous and ruthless killers and gangsters among other junkies and peasants. The apartment is understood to house these types but it remains untouchable to even the most courageous, albeit foolish, police officials. Rama (Iko Uwais) is a young member of the police force two months away from becoming a father. He is one of the few “good cops” still remaining in an otherwise corrupt system. In the cover of dawn’s darkness he and 19 other members of the SWAT team approach the safe house with the intent of bringing down the crime lord living inside its walls.
Easily manoeuvring their way up to the fifth level it seems this team is better prepared than their fresh faces might imply. Their fortune quickly turns when a young spotter who manages to utter the word “Police” into an intercom before a bullet rips through his neck finds them. Soon a trap is sprung as the lights cut out and the 20 men are locked within the walls of this hell. With no way of communicating outside the complex they are left with one option: Finish their job and find the crime lord or die trying.
From the very second this film starts until the credits finish it’s impossible not to become invested in what’s on the screen. The first shot of a watch sitting on Rama’s nightstand means more by the end of the film than it does at the beginning for it signifies how quickly things can turn and change in a way never considered. As a police officer things can obviously go bad in a hurry but an entire tenement against 20 isn’t the sort of foe you’d wake up in the morning thinking about.
What makes this movie so exciting is the phenomenal fight choreography led by Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. In the film these two actors are pit against one another; Uwais on the side of the police force and Ruhian on the side of the crime lord. As soon as these two actors are seen on screen it becomes very clear they are the most experienced fighters of the Pencak silat fighting style. This isn’t to say the other actors on screen disappoint because each extra performs exceptionally; these characters cause audiences to shift in their seats. Every frame featuring Uwais or Ruhian shows these two leading every fight. They seem more reactive, more willing to risk their own body’s to get the best sort of shot. The reality of their style makes it seem that they could have been easily injured after ever sequence.
The really interesting feature of this fighting style is how well it works to develop the story. Sometimes with the martial arts beat-em-up story the scenes come off very contrived. This is not the case in The Raid. When out of ammo or lacking a knife, reliance on your own abilities becomes absolutely necessary to survive. Ultimately this style is not one of offensive manoeuvring but self-defence. Even those unfamiliar with this style of fighting or martial arts in general can take note of this, particularly when Uwais is in the scene. Though relatively small in stature his strength comes from using his opponents momentum against them. If the enemy is lunging at Uwais, rather than simply blocking he redirects his foe into a concrete wall or better yet a serrated edge to end the brawl more quickly.
In the fight sequences involving Ruhian he also uses his enemy’s advances against them but he also makes sure to constantly be within inches of them. Any time there is more than a foot separation between him and an opponent Ruhian is loosing the battle. Where Uwais is small, Ruhian is tiny; from behind one might confuse him with a child though they’d soon regret it. By keeping so close to the adversary Ruhian eliminates the advantage height and reach usually provide during a fight. Add on the sheer speed of attacks and it makes absolute sense Ruhian would be able to contend with multiple challengers simultaneously.
It has been a while since an action movie has come along that blows audiences away. More often it seems they get described as “entertaining” but rarely a good or quality movie. The Raid not only packs a punch but also takes time necessary to develop the character enough that you root for their survival rather than the next opportunity to show off their fighting chops. This is a film that not only should be seen but also ought to be seen in a packed theatre. So log onto your interwebs and find out when The Raid is making it to a multiplex in your area and get your tickets. And if you’re of the unfortunate bunch living in a place that will never show this epic movie well then it’s time to start planning a road trip to find it.