Paying tribute to Chris Marker & welcoming Mark Cousins


Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival returns for its 8th annual, international celebration of the art of film, 19th – 23rd September 2012. Described by filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins as “beautifully curated,” the event welcomes Mark alongside a number of artists and filmmakers from all over the World to Berwick-upon-Tweed, illuminating the whole town through premiere screenings and site-specific installations.

Each year the programme responds to a theme, and the 2012 programme explores the relationship between the moving and the still image, showcasing artists who work across film and photography (such as Chris Marker) and featuring films (such as Cousins’ latest, What is This Film Called Love?) inspired by photography techniques - and looking, as always, at where the boundaries blur.

Key to the programme this year is a 50th anniversary presentation of the most famous of photo-films, La Jetée. Created almost entirely out of still images, this seminal work tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel, and is well-known for having inspired Terry Gilliam’s 1995 science fiction, 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt.

La Jetée’s creator, Chris Marker, died only last month, on his 91st birthday, with obituaries citing him not only as a hugely influential filmmaker, photographer and writer, but also as the pioneer of the ‘essay film.’

Festival Director Melanie Iredale said “We had long planned to screen La Jetée as part of the Festival this year, as a keystone to this year’s theme of film and photography, and in celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. It’s a film that I - and countless others – were first introduced to as a student when learning about the history of film, and it’s one that will continue to inspire generations of filmmakers. We’re delighted to be bringing a 35mm print of Chris Marker’s film to Berwick, and in addition to paying tribute to the director, we will be showcasing it alongside other films in the Festival that were influenced by his work.”

La Jetée, from 1962, which screens at the Festival on Saturday 22nd September, will be presented alongside another short film, entitled La Futur, from 2011. Also in black and white, composed almost entirely of still images, and playing with the subject of time travel, La Futur is an example of one of the many new works being created today which La Jetée inspired. Upon hearing that the Festival had selected his film, Spanish director Benjamin Villaverde said: “It's a pleasure and an honor to participate in the anniversary of La Jetée. The influence of this movie in my short film is obvious. I love the film by Chris Marker. I was inspired by his style, to tell a funny story of a future that, in fact, is the present. I'm very excited - I never dreamed that my short film could take part in a tribute to Chris Marker.”

Other films inspired by Chris Marker includes the essay film Patience (After Sebald), which will be presented by Berwick Film Society on the evening of Thursday 20th September, and the regional premiere of What is This Film Called Love? by the famous filmmaker, critic, and presenter Mark Cousins, which follows La Jetee on the evening of Saturday 22nd September. With a picture of Sergei Eisenstein as his companion on a walking tour of Mexico City, Cousins contemplates historical change, shot composition and his own identity, in a film that he cites “draws from a range of filmmakers and writers – principally Chris Marker, but also Virginia Woolf, Frank O’Hara and others.

Having just completed Channel 4’s The Story of Film, which took six years to make, 15 hours to watch and which spanned 100 years of cinema, Mark Cousins returns with a much more personal project – and will introduce it in person at The Maltings Theatre & Cinema. Famous for interviewing the likes of Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, Cousins himself will take questions from the audience about his new film. Mark Cousins said today: "Berwick-upon-Tweed Film & Media Arts Fest is beautifully curated, a feast of innovative film. We are delighted to be even a small glint in such a treasure trove."

Closing the Festival is the UK Premiere of The Great Northwest, a film by Matt McCormick, which also documents the artist’s travels, this time across the North West of America. Inspired by a scrapbook charting four women’s epic road trip back in 1958, McCormick embarked on the very same route, searching out every stop along the way, documenting through film and photography how the landscape has changed over time. Known as an artist, photographer, a Sundance favourite, and the director behind Some Days are Better than Others, Matt McCormick will be travelling to Berwick all the way from Portland, Oregon to introduce his film and to do a Q&A afterwards, as part of the Closing Gala.

Meanwhile, on Friday 21st September, the Festival presents another road movie – Braden King’s Here: a romance between American cartographer Will, played by 3:10 to Yuma’s Ben Foster, and an Armenian photographer Gadarine, played by Lubna Azabal from Body of Lies, Incendies, and Corialanus. Powerfully performed, and beautifully shot, the Sundance award-winning, North-East based, cinematographer Lol Crawley will also be in attendance at the Festival.

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