International artists head home after hugely successful 8th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival
Straddling the border between England and Scotland, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is a truly international event, showcasing filmmakers and artists from both sides of the border, and this year welcomed 23 artists and filmmakers from as far as India and the USA as well as Spain, the Netherlands, and from across the UK.
Each year, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival transforms the small border town into one big cinema screen, and last week saw the 8th event truly surpass all expectations with audiences of 7,000, smashing all box office sales targets – a third more than was anticipated by organisers!
Using the historic town of Berwick-upon-Tweed as a set, the programme featured a selection of new films and contemporary moving image art installations, each projected in, or on to, a range of unique venues and heritage locations around the town. The Festival once again opened up rarely accessed parts of Berwick’s Elizabethan heritage with, for example, premiering new video installations in ice houses, buried deep in the town’s walls, and curating an exhibition themed around surveillance and displacement in the old prison cells in the tower of the Town Hall.
Described by the filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins as “beautifully curated” and a “feast of innovative film,” this year the programme focussed on the relationship between the moving image and the still image, with the Festival offering a platform to artists who work across film and photography, such as Shirin Neshat, and to artists inspired by photographic techniques, such as Andrew Kötting.
Over an action-packed 5 days, over 50 pieces of work were showcased with 12 world premieres screened, alongside 8 UK premieres, representing 17 countries – all across 9 venues with 7 outdoor locations being used to show work.
Says Festival Director Melanie Iredale:
“We’ve been overwhelmed with the feedback we’ve had from audiences on the programme, and from our artists on the welcome they’ve had here in Berwick. It really was a huge success, and I want to thank all of the funders and sponsors for supporting it, and my staff and volunteers for making it happen. It was certainly our most ambitious festival to date, and we’re planning for the next one already!”
This year’s highlights included Talkies Wallah, a series of portrait photographs which captured the joy of cinema on the faces of audience members of a travelling cinema back in India, and which were projected for the first time in locations around Berwick, starting with the newly opened Berwick Watchtower Gallery on the first night of the Festival, and then following that, the town walls by the Quayside, on the front of the Town Hall and at the site of the old picturehouse, which closed within the same week of the inaugural Festival back in September 2005. The artist, Amit Madheshiya also travelled all the way from Mumbai to attend the Festival.
The opening film was a World Premiere - Photographers, a new commission for the Festival, in partnership with the North East Photography Network. The film was introduced by the artist Mishka Henner, who was delighted with the huge audience, and positive response to the film. Following Photographers was a preview of Chasing Ice, which was voted the audience’s favourite film of the Festival, and which will go on general release later this year.
Other Festival successes include the UK Premiere of Resident Evil: Retribution, which attracted huge press interest and was introduced by video by the its Director and the Festival’s Chris Anderson Award patron Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife and star of the film, Milla Jovovich.
Q&A’s featured Here cinematographer Lol Crawley, What Is This Film Called Love’s director Mark Cousins, and the closing film, The Great Northwest’s director Matt McCormick, who flew over from Portland, Oregon, for the Festival.
The Installations around the town proved more popular than ever, and included new commission 24 Times, an ambitious 24-monitor installation by artist Jason Dee, which opened up the old Berwick Gymnasium by the ramparts, and the world premiere of Section 4 part 20: One Day on a Saturday by established photographer Edmund Clark, in collaboration with Anna Stevens from Panos Pictures, all of whom came to Berwick for the Festival.
Audiences from across North East England, South East Scotland, and beyond, travelled for the Festival, with Berwick welcoming particularly large audiences for special events, such as the Opening Gala, the 50th anniversary screening of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the newly commissioned Live Road Movie from Screen Bandita & The One Ensemble, and the Closing Film, The Great Northwest, all of which proved to be a huge hit with audiences.
The Festival returns at the same time next year, with the theme of North by Northeast, exploring the region’s historical, industrial and cultural links with Northern Europe, and the North Sea that connects us.
As part of this, the Festival today announced their partnership with Berwick Visual Arts on a residency early next year, which will result in a new commission for the 2013 Festival.
The residency offers the opportunity for a moving image artist to spend up to 6 months in Berwick-upon-Tweed, with a wealth of unique heritage locations available to the artist to site their resulting work. The funding available for the residency is up to £12,000, with additional exhibition costs covered by the Festival.
For details of this new residency and one of two opportunities being announced by Berwick Visual Arts today – go to http://www.maltingsberwick.co.uk/bva. The deadline for applications is Monday 22nd October.