HE helped save a dying city Down Under and his extraordinary life was captured in an award-winning documentary.
Now, John Croall will return home for the first time in more than half a century at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival (GFF).
Yer Old Faither, a touching tribute to the Knightswood man who passed away in 2013, will make its long-awaited UK debut during the event next month.
Filmed by his daughter Heather during his later years, the movie charts John’s life as an obstetrician and the impact he had in the city of Whyalla.
Having moved in search the sun in 1970, by the time of his death, aged 80, he was widely credited with saving his new Australian home, thanks to the babies he delivered, the blossoming trees he planted, and the much-needed investment he secured. However, he always loved Glasgow.
Heather said: “There’s a lot of love for Glasgow in the film and dad had a lot of love for Glasgow right to the end even though he had left it almost 50 years earlier.
“He may have left Glasgow but Glasgow never left him – it was always with him.
“He always used to say to us on his birthday even from when he was about 50, ‘this could be my last birthday, look after your mother when yer old doddering father is gone’ so even though he prepared us for his death for about 30 years, we still weren’t ready to see him go when he did.
“That’s why I filmed a lot I guess. There was a quiet dignity about dad when he knew his days were numbered.
“It’s a privilege to spend that precious time with someone. But, it doesn’t make it easier to say goodbye.
“I am looking forward to see how the Glasgow audiences respond to the documentary.”
John never returned to the city but always kept his links, writing to pen pal Ronnie O’Conner and sister Denise.
Yer Old Faither was first shown at the Adelaide Film Festival in October last year, where it won the Audience Award for Documentary.
During the movie, Heather also shares his short-lived stint at the Vatican and his early life growing up in Scotland.
“I think there may be some of his old classmates from Blairs or Scots College or Glasgow University who are still about and hopefully they might catch it,” Heather added.
“Dad was never all that keen on being on the camera.
“He was always trying to divert the attention to others when I filmed him so I think he would be surprised to think the film about him was completed and even showing in Glasgow.”
GFF co-director Allan Hunter: “I couldn’t be happier that Yer Old Faither will have its UK premiere at the 2021 Glasgow Film Festival.
“Glasgow was in the DNA of John Croall and Heather’s documentary captures a potent sense of that in his generous spirit, his dry humour and his approach to life.
“Describing himself as a ‘climate refugee’ from the Scottish weather, he touched so many people in the Australian community of Whyalla.
“His impact there is still being felt after his death.
“Heather’s affectionate film is a loving tribute to a father but also a celebration of all those enterprising Scots who venture out into the world and carry their homeland in their hearts.”
Yer Old Faither will join a host of new releases from around the globe in being shown at the GFF, which has moved online for the first time.
This will include six world premieres, two European debuts, and a further 48 UK first showings, with movies from the likes of Anthony Baxter and Irvine Welsh topping the bill.
The festival will open on Wednesday, February 24, with Lee Isaac Chung’s autobiographical drama following a Korean-American family Minari, starring The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun, and close on Sunday, March 7, with Suzanne Lindon’s debut feature Spring Blossom.
This year’s Industry programme will run online between Monday, March 1, and Saturday, March, 6.
Scottish highlights include the UK premier of Welsh’s Creation Stories. Starring Ewen Bremner, it charts the rise of the infamous founder of Creation Records, Alan McGee.
David Whitney’s Killing Escobar, which reconstructs Scottish mercenary and ex-SAS operative Peter McAleese’s mission to assassinate Pablo Escobar, will also feature, as will Baxter’s new film Eye of the Storm.
The Scottish director returns to the city following the 2020 success of his movie Flint, this time charting the last two years of the life one of Scotland’s most gifted painters, James Morrison.
Of the other films making their UK debut, the full list includes The Mauritanian, directed by Kevin Macdonald and based on the best-selling memoir by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, which tells the story of Slahi, who was held for years in Guantanamo Bay.
The movie stars Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Further homegrown highlights from include Welsh thriller The Toll, starring Michael Smiley as a contented toll booth operator whose past shows up to haunt him.
The Audience Award – the only prize given out at GFF and voted for by the festival audience – returns with six titles from first or second-time directors.
The shortlist includes: Zoé Wittock’s Jumbo; Marly Morrison’s Sweetheart; and Lili Horvát’s Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time.
Allison Gardner, CEO of Glasgow Film and GFF co-director, said: “Glasgow Film Festival 2021 may look different to previous years, but what has not changed is the quality of incredible films from across the world that we are bringing to our audiences.
“The programme is filled with gems, but a few of my highlights must include Ben Sharrock’s bewitching tale of a refugee in Scotland Limbo, charming coming-of-age romance Sweetheart, Mads Mikkelsen’s stand-out performance in Riders of Justice, stunning and compelling documentary BIG vs SMALL, and Gunda, a farmyard story of a sow and her piglets that will steal your heart.”
Councillor David McDonald, chair of Glasgow Life and depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “There is no doubt the Glasgow Film Festival has curated a quality programme for 2021 which showcases the exceptional talent making films around the world. It is a tribute to the endeavour of the entire festival team that we will all be able to enjoy the true experience of Glasgow Film Festival while staying safe.
“Film fans everywhere will be supporting the wider industry by buying tickets for this imaginative programme and I have no doubt will look forward to enjoying it.”
Tickets for the programme will go on sale at 12pm on Monday here.
Titles will be available to view between 24 February and 7 March on online platform Glasgow Film At Home.