The 7th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival got off to the best possible start with an incredibly well-received Opening Gala, starting with a welcome from Chair of the Board Huw Davies, an introduction to the programme from Director Melanie Iredale, and a few words from Councillor Alan Bowlas who has attended each of the previous six editions, and declared the 7th Festival officially open.
The opening film marked the world premiere for UK-Iranian production I Am Nasrine, as well as the Festival’s opening film, and was enjoyed by 300 people in the Maltings Theatre & Cinema, and was attended by director Tina Gharavi, who introduced the film, as well as producers James Baillie & Gerry Maguire, the lead actors Micsha Sadeghi (Nasrine), Shiraz Haq (Ali), Steven Hooper (Leigh) and Nichole Hall (Nichole), and a number of the other cast & crew.
The Festival – which celebrates the art of the moving image, in different locations across England’s most northern town – was delighted to host the first ever screening.
Director Melanie Iredale said “It was the perfect opening – audiences just loved the film, meeting the cast & crew, and the whole experience, and we were just delighted to welcome so many of those that were involved in the film to Berwick.”
Tina Gharavi, director of the film, thanked the team the Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, saying how delighted she was that “The home audiences really welcomed the film. Reactions were overwhelming & a great evening celebrating was had” Tina continued, “We're now very excited to bring the film to a wider audience!”
Meanwhile one audience member said “Really enjoyed I Am Nasrine and great the see so many people from the region come here to celebrate.”
The film opened the Festival’s Friday celebrations, which continued with the unveiling of the Festival’s newly commissioned outdoor animated projection, Penumbra: The Long & Peculiar Life of Jimmy Strength by Gareth Hudson & Jack Burton and culminated in a gala reception.
Inspired by the local legends and projected onto the face of the Granary building, Penumbra was an ambitious new commission for the Festival, and enjoyed by hundreds of people over the course of the weekend.
Another new commission for the Festival, supported by Arts Council England, was Maria, a 3D hologram projection of a flamenco dancer, emerging from the darkness of Bankhill Ice House, by artist and choreographer Darren Johnston.
Just earlier that same day, the Festival had presented a private event for primary schools called Moominworld for children, in partnership with Seven Stories centre for children’s books, and sponsored by General Mills. As well as a screening of a new Moomins feature, Moomin & the Midsummer Madness, the packed audience of 76 children, all aged between 5 & 11, along with their teachers, from various primary schools in the local area, enjoyed storytelling from Seven Stories based on Tove Jansson’s original books.
Celebrations continued on Saturday, with the Chris Anderson Award for Best Young Filmmaker, where a short listed selection of films were presented by filmmakers aged under 19 from the North East & Scottish Borders. All were competing for a cash prize donated by the family of the late Chris Anderson, a chance to screen their film at Leeds Young People’s Film Festival 2012, and a signed poster by Chris’ son, and Resident Evil director, Paul W.S. Anderson for his forthcoming blockbuster The Three Musketeers.
The winning film was Brian and Brian’s Amazing Eggventure Parts I, II & III, a bizarre and surreal stop motion animated adventure about a duck and a gorilla, both named Brian, by 17-year old Mark Boston from Berwick.
Saturday also featured a packed screening of Arrietty, and a late night double bill of new short film Little Red and the 1984 classic horror The Company of Wolves, both of which depicted dark re-tellings of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.
Meanwhile, both the very young and the young at heart enjoyed the Unravel: The Longest Handpainted Film in Britain workshop, which involved over 100 participants drawing, painting & scratching directly on to 16mm film, and The Ice Book – which saw a beautiful fairy tale projected onto a pop-up book as part of a magical miniature theatre performance.
Sunday started with a screening of Jean Cocteau’s classic adaptation of ‘Beauty & The Beast’, La Belle et la Bete, from 1946 and from a genuinely old 35mm film print, while an original drawing from the film’s set designs sat in the foyer framed and on display, having been kindly loaned just that morning by owner Mr Laurence Johnston.
The second World Premiere of the Festival took place on Sunday when artists Marianna Morkore & Rannva Karadottir, as well as the performers from the Maltings Youth Dance & Drama Company, watched and celebrated the making of Mare – a Northumberland County Council commissioned short, which was shot on the nearby coastline.
Meanwhile, over at Café Curio, both young and old were enjoying tea and cake, along with a screening of the first ever adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland from 1903. The event marked a new venue for the Festival and a first-time partner in the Food Festival which took place in Berwick only a couple of weeks beforehand.
The Festival culminated with a popular live performance of The Blue Bird from 1918, with live accompaniment from Carl Heslop on the Compton Organ. Carl had restored the organ just last year, having found it abandoned in Berwickshire, and this event saw it return home, in it’s former glory. Following the event, audiences celebrated with a glass of bubbly – tinted blue, of course!
Melanie concluded “We’re still totting up the figures, but the feedback has been incredible – I think the opening gala was our best attended and generally most successful to date – the buzz around the celebrations was contagious and lasted all weekend, which was fantastic. The Artist Trail too was definitely the most popular, and the feedback on the new commissions, the programme and the festival experience in general has been so positive it’s been quite overwhelming!”