International visitors head home after hugely successful 10th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival

24/09/2014

Organisers of this year’s 10th Anniversary Festival promised the best one ever – and it looks like they fulfilled expectations with audiences and artists alike waxing lyrical about their enjoyment of the event.

Last week, the Festival (17th – 21st September) welcomed more people to the town than ever before, attracting audiences of up to 9,000 from across the UK.

Using the historic town of Berwick-upon-Tweed as one big cinema screen, the programme featured over 75 new films and moving image art installations from almost 40 countries, with 6 world premieres and 19 UK premieres – all presented across 12 unique locations ranging from The Maltings Theatre, to heritage sites including Bankhill Ice House, and the Town Hall Prison Cells, across the town and along the town walls.

Over 40 artists and filmmakers in the programme travelled to Berwick from across Europe and from as far as Lebanon and Los Angeles.

The Festival’s theme for this year – Border Crossing – returned to its very first theme in 2005, exploring border identities and the crossing and transcending of boundaries all over the world, having particular significance on the week of the Scottish referendum.

Director Melanie Iredale said: “This was a huge year for us – inviting even more artists and filmmakers to Berwick from further afield, and presenting more works across even more venues around the town. We were committed to producing a bumper edition in celebration of our 10th birthday and the feedback we’ve had has been tremendous.”

Highlights included:

• A full house for the Opening Gala, the UK Premiere of Mamarosh, which was introduced by Momcilo Mrdakovic who had travelled from Belgrade to Berwick for the screening, followed by the World Premiere of Ben Russell’s installation, The Twilight State installed in Shoregate Ice house, hidden beneath the town walls on Berwick’s quayside
Tweed-Sark Cinema, a newly commissioned, ambitious eight-screen installation by the bank of the river Tweed, in Bankhill Ice House by John Wallace and Professor Pete Smith
• A spontaneous round of applause from an appreciative audience following the 35mm film projection of Powell & Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going!
• The Gymnasium Gallery full to the rafters for the world premiere of The Lawes of the Marches by Berwick’s artist in residence Katie Davies, which involved a live performance of traditional songs from the Borders 

• The film our audience rated as their favourite was The Mulberry House, receiving a majority of 5 out of 5 stars. Director Sara Ishaq came to Berwick from Cairo to meet audiences. Hosting the Q&A was the BBC World Service’s Alexandra Buccianti. 88% of films received entirely 4 or 5 star ratings.
• The world premiere of Orchestra of Samples by Addictive TV, a new commission for the festival with folk stars Alistair Anderson, Callum Younger, and Shona Mooney playing live on stage
• A full screening of young people’s work as part of The Young Filmmakers Showcase, with the cash prizes going to Emmie and Lilly Thompson from Sunderland who made Mitchell Goldfield and Jacob Crow from County Durham for Superdog. Almost 600 young people took part as hands-on participants over the Festival weekend.
• Film London’s Maggie Ellis chairing a debate for artists and filmmakers with Ben Russell (USA), Kristina (Cranfeld (Uzbekistan) and John Wallace & Prof Pete Smith (Scotland) all sharing their practice
• The return of the Inntravel Short Film Award, presented by model Eunice Olumide, with Jury members Marcus Coates, artist-filmmaker, Hilke Doering, Head of the International Competition at Oberhausen Short Film Festival and Catherine Shoard, Head of Film at the Guardian, awarding the £750 cash prize to Roy Dib for Mondial 2010. who was over from Lebanon to collect the prize in person
• A live performance from Philip Selway of Radiohead, together with the world premiere of his newly commissioned music video by visual artists Marianna Morkore & Rannva Karadottir
• A sell-out screening of From Scotland with Love at Paxton House, marking the first time the festival crossed the border, followed by a Q&A with director Virginia Heath, hosted by the founder of the Scottish Screen Archive, Janet McBain
• A preview of Ida for the Closing Gala following which a toast was made to Melanie Iredale, who has directed the festival over the past five years and who from November moves on to become Deputy Director at Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Outgoing Director Melanie Iredale said: “The general consensus from audience and artist/filmmaker feedback is that this has been by far the best edition and so I’m incredibly grateful to all of my Board and team, and to all of the funders, partners and filmmakers who helped to make it such a success. I’m extremely proud of what we achieved together.”

Following the success of its 10th anniversary edition, the Board of Directors will launch an open recruitment call for a Festival Director to replace Melanie in early October.

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