Picture perfect: best small film festivals around Scotland in 2019

Picture Perfect

The Act of Killing

Scotland's film festival circuit is as diverse as it is fascinating, featuring documentaries with a conscience to classics of European cinema

Screen Scotland's Film Festivals Fund is a new initiative helping a number of screen events throughout the year to grow and diversify. Several film festivals across Scotland already benefit from the fund's assistance, and here's a taster of what they've been able to accomplish.

Given the typically wild and windy environs of Scotland's north-western islands, it's not surprising that the Hebrides International Film Festival (Sep) is focused on islands, the environment and remote communities. Its selection of documentaries, feature films, shorts and archival footage hail from all over the world, with the 2018 edition featuring submissions from the likes of Iceland, Japan and Spain. Meanwhile, it touches on issues very much in the public consciousness, such as plastic pollution in the oceans, and on more esoteric, unique stories: Chris Burkard's 'Under an Arctic Sky' follows a group of surfers riding the stormy Icelandic seas beneath the northern lights. Not that the festival doesn't explore beyond those boundaries: Oscar-winning animation The Breadwinner and a handful of live performances were also among the 2018 highlights.

As you might guess from the title, the Glasgow-based Document Human Rights Film Festival (24–27 Oct) favours documentaries, both old and new, that perform the important task of shedding light on a broad range of human rights issues. Previous highlights include Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing (pictured) his mesmerising, Oscar-winning exploration of Indonesian death squads; and the BAFTA-awarded I Am Breathing, directed by Emma Davie and Morag McKinnon. This film follows the final months of 33-year-old Neil Platt – a Scottish architect with Lou Gehrig's disease – as he grapples with the idea of leaving something meaningful behind for his infant son. In addition to a powerful programme, Document boasts filmmaking workshops and masterclasses, as well as screenings of archive and found-footage materials from around the globe.

The French Film Festival (7 Nov–12 Dec) is a grand celebration of all things Francophone, with films from all over the French-speaking world (including Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and African territories, as well as our more obvious cousins across the Channel) screening in towns and cities across the UK. The programme skews predominantly towards new releases, featuring the work of cinematic luminaries such as Jean- Luc Godard, Marion Cotillard, Jean Dujardin and Isabelle Huppert (all of whom featured in the 2018 festival) alongside rising stars, though there's also the odd nod to France's illustrious cinematic heritage: the most recent programme included screenings of the Gérard Depardieu- starring Cyrano de Bergerac and wartime classic La Grande Illusion. The festival isn't one to shy away from current affairs either with last year's edition hosting a selection of female-led films that served as a welcome showcase during a time of calls for greater gender equality within the industry.

An unlikely city twinship is at the heart of the Havana Glasgow Film Festival (14–16 Nov), which celebrates artistic and cultural links between Cuba's capital and our own dear green place. Conceived by screenwriter and director Eirene Houston, a regular in Havana for some 20 years, the programme is a mix of documentary and feature-film screenings, discussions, exhibitions and – unsurprisingly, given both cities' fondness for a get-together – parties and salsa sessions. The 2018 festival featured period drama Hello Hemingway, coming-of-ager The Roof and award-winning transgender narrative His Wedding Dress, as well as shorts and documentaries from the shores of both Scotland and Cuba. Plans for 2019 include events to mark a pair of significant anniversaries (the fifth for the festival and 60th for the much-revered Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry), as well as – fingers crossed – an appearance from Cuban actor-director Jorge Perugorría on the 25th anniversary of his breakout film role, Strawberry & Chocolate.

Closer to home, the Dunoon Film Festival (Dec) in Argyll & Bute is a weekend-long celebration of cinema, with a programme of beloved masterpieces geared towards giving audiences what they want. The 2018 festival featured screenings of Jules et Jim and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (plus an appearance from Aardman artist Jim Parkyn) alongside more contemporary delights such as Sundance darling Hearts Beat Loud and Scottish zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse (pictured). There are also fun events for aspiring filmmakers, and free screenings of films with a local angle: last year's selection included a documentary on Glasgow-born Charlie Chaplin impersonator Billie Ritchie, and archive programmes about Dunoon's storied history as a seaside resort.

The Scottish Queer International Film Festival (30 Sep–6 Oct) celebrates the full spectrum of sexuality through a packed programme of shorts, fiction features, discussions, workshops, parties, exhibitions and performances. Better known by its cheeky acronym, SQIFF, the festival is rooted in Glasgow but inclusive in its globetrotting outlook. The 2018 event included a Queer Arab Lives strand and a screening of the documentary Shakedown, which explores the history of an all-black, female-owned LA strip club. Better yet, screenings are priced on a sliding 'pay what you can' scale, from free to £8, so everyone is welcome.

To find out more about Screen Scotland's Film Festival Fund, visit screen.scot

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