Glasgow Film Festival 2021: Our Top Picks

Glasgow Film Festival is back for its 16th year, bringing an exciting programme of films from 24 February – 7 March. Though lockdown restrictions mean that the hybrid festival the organisers had planned for won’t be able to delight in-cinema audiences, GFF21’s online presence means the festival is accessible to audiences across the UK. Below are some of this year’s highlights – in line with Take One Action’s focus on global cinema that spotlights underrepresented stories and voices.

A woman from the shoulders up looking left past the camera with sky behind her. She wears a black t-shirt, chunky silver necklace and has dreadlocks.


Shining a light on gender inequality in the electronic dance music scene is the main focus of director Stacey Lee’s uplifting documentary. Beautifully shot, Underplayed is an intimate and revealing look at the personal journeys of many talented and vibrant women making their mark within an industry that has long undervalued female musicians, technicians and producers. Filmed over the summer festival season, the film focuses on female pioneers who are championing change, providing a diverse pool of role models for generations to come.

27 Feb – 2 March | More info & tickets

City Hall

Fred Wiseman’s painstaking, landmark documentaries capture the heart and soul of America. City Hall is no exception. His portrait of Boston’s city government is a love letter to civic responsibility and democratic values. Wiseman immerses us in the life of the city through the changing seasons and in locations that stretch from an animal shelter to a Red Sox victory parade and a police station briefing room. Mayor Marty Walsh is a key figure throughout – a wily, compassionate politician who wants to make a difference for all the diverse communities that he serves. 

5 – 8 March | More info & tickets

A close up of a person looking intently past the camera to the right

Mekong 2030

Five Southeast Asian filmmakers present their visions and fears for the future in this wonderfully inventive anthology of stories focusing on one of Asia’s most vital waterways, the Mekong River. Initiated by Laos’ Luang Prabang Film Festival, each filmmaker looks towards the year 2030 and envisions what changes might occur and how it will affect the communities that depend on it. Black Mirror-esque dystopia and cutting social commentary on the impact of climate change are just a few of the many things that you can expect from these unique collections of stories that showcase Asian filmmakers at their finest.

25 – 28 Feb | More info & tickets


Ben Sharrock’s deadpan comedy-drama brings a completely fresh perspective to the life of a migrant. Musician Omar (the wonderful Amir El-Masry) has fled conflict in Syria and now finds himself at a desolate refugee centre on a remote Scottish island. Separated from home and family, he waits in limbo for others to decide his future. Omar’s desperate situation is marked by open hostility, offers of friendship and small acts of kindness from the strangers all around him. A beautiful, achingly poignant tale that will break your heart on the way to warming your soul.

3 – 6 March | More info & tickets

The Dissident

The murder of Saudi Arabia-born Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 shocked the world. The latest documentary from Oscar-winning director Bryan Fogel (Icarus) explores the case in forensic detail. Fogel’s enthralling examination offers a greater understanding of Khashoggi’s life and work, covers the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and reveals how political activist Omar Abdulaziz risks his life to challenge the Saudi Arabian government. All roads lead to the Embassy of Saudia Arabia in Turkey, and Khashoggi’s gruesome death, in a film with all the pace and intensity of a political thriller.

6 – 9 March | More info & tickets

A man wearing a blac puffer jacket walking down a London street.

A Brixton Tale

Leah (Lily Newmark) and Benji (Ola Orebiyi) may walk the same London streets but they come from very different worlds. The debut feature from directors Darragh Carey and Bertrand Desrochers is a star-crossed romance confronting class, race and love in modern Britain. White, middle-class Leah is an aspiring filmmaker who thinks she has found her perfect subject in shy Black lad Benji and his mate. A spark of romance catches fire but is she just using him to further her career? Is he more committed than her and what happens when their love is put to the test?

6 – 9 March | More info & tickets

A person in a lilac dress and a person in a red and white tunic standing in a forest and holding an apple together that covers the face of standing behind them wearing a suit and red tie.

Bridging the Gap: Turbulence

Four shorts from Scottish Documentary Institute’s emerging talent initiative Bridging the Gap on the theme of Turbulence. A collection of intimate and thought-provoking stories:

Against the Tide (Giulia Candussi, 2020)
Harmonic Spectrum (Austen McCowan and Will Hewitt, 2020)
Racing Stock (Patrick Steel, 2020) 
Everyman (Jack Goessens, 2020)

26 Feb – 1 March | More info & tickets