Berwick commission receives coveted accolade at International Film Festival Rotterdam


Berwick commission receives coveted accolade at International Film Festival Rotterdam

US-based media artist Ben Russell has won a key prize at the 44th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) for a work commissioned Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in 2014.

Russell’s film, ‘Greetings to the Ancestors’, is a cinema edit of his immersive film installation ‘The Twilight State’, which premiered at Berwick in September 2014 and was produced in partnership with Northern Film & Media, following support from Arts Council England. After an international call for proposals which attracted hundreds of entries from around the globe, Russell was awarded £5,000 to make the film which would ultimately go on to win the 10th edition of Rotterdam’s Canon Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films.

It was selected as one of three winners by a jury of experts, comprising British artist, filmmaker and two-time winner of this award Beatrice Gibson, Dutch programmer and curator Xander Karskens, and artistic director of Image Forum Festival Koyo Yamashita from Japan, from an eclectic field of 20 shortlisted films from around the world. The jury singled out Russell's film "For its complex approach to ethnographic filmmaking, its sensuous psychedelia, its self-reflexive and intricate weaving of voice and landscape."

Northern Film & Media’s project and development manager Lauren Healey said: “We were delighted to partner with Berwick to create an opportunity for such exciting new work to be made and to ensure that North East audiences were the first to see it. It was wonderful that the quality of that work was recognised at this acclaimed festival and we are even more thrilled that Ben's work was further singled out among such a distinguished field."

Newly appointed director at Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival said, "The very first public screening I had the pleasure of organising in my early career was with Ben Russell, so his winning the Tiger Award for Short Film in Rotterdam is the perfect start to my tenure as Festival Director in Berwick. Building long-term relationships with artists is key to our work and I’d like to thank Arts Council England for their support in this joint commission with Northern Film + Media. Their investment has already clearly paid off."

Having had solo exhibitions and screenings all over the world – from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris – Russell came to the 10th edition of Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival in September 2014 to present ‘The Twilight State’, on which ‘Greetings to the Ancestors’ is based. The film is set between Swaziland and South Africa and uses the unusual landscape of the borderless Kruger National Park to explore themes of culture, nature, society and existence. Focusing on the abrupt meeting of the natural world and urban modernity in a society still grappling with the after-effects of apartheid, ‘The Twilight State’ documents the lives of the territory’s inhabitants as borders dematerialise, evolve and dissolve.

Russell's debut feature ‘A Spell to Ward off the Darkness’ was also released by Soda Pictures to enthusiastic reviews in September last year, launching at the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.