Festival Preview: Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, 23 – 25 September, The Maltings Theatre & Cinema, Berwick
Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival is now in its seventh year. This year’s festival will run from Friday 23 – Sunday 25 September, and combines film premieres and art installations in a wide variety of locations throughout the town.
Mark Davidson spoke to the Festival’s director Melanie Iredale about the ambitious and creative programme for 2011.
Mark Davidson: Tell us a bit about the history of Berwick Film and Media Arts festival. What differentiates it from other film and/or arts festivals?
Melanie Iredale: The festival began as many good things do “ as an idea dreamed up in a pub, in the Barrels Ale House in Berwick. It was created by artist-filmmakers Huw Davies and Marcus Coates, with the notion that the festival would illuminate the town, like one big video installation.
That was back in 2004, and each year since 2005 we take a series of unique and mostly heritage locations and use them as a backdrop to install contemporary moving image screenings projections and installations.
The programme this year for example stretches across the prison cells in the town hall and an old gymnasium, as well as taking over every space in the town’s theatre. The Festival is very much rooted in its locations, and one of the most fun aspects of the job is selecting works for each location, and a location for each work.
On top of this, we curate thematically each year, and this year we’ve called the programme Once upon a Time, exploring storytelling on screen, and also folklore & fairy tale on film.
We also commission works inspired by and created for specific locations, and within the theme, which this year includes a lifesize hologram projection by Darren Johnston (who has worked with Aphex Twin, Chris Cunningham, Squarepusher and the like) in an old Ice House, called ˜Maria’, and a 3D animation depicting tales from local legend by North East Video artist Gareth Hudson, projected outdoors onto the face of a 250-year old Granary, called ˜Penumbra’.
It’s definitely the use of the town as one big screen that makes the festival unique. Seven years on, Huw & Marcus are still on the Board (in fact Huw is my Chair and Co-curator), and the Barrels is still a frequent venue of ours.
How difficult has it been to secure funding for this year in light of the recent cuts to the Arts Council?
Funding generally, both private, public and trusts & foundations has been noticeably more difficult the past couple of years, for various reasons I won’t whinge about here. But to be honest the Arts Council in particular have been increasingly supportive.
We secured funding from them for the Artist Trail and for the new commissions, as we did last year, and from next year we’ll be one of their new National Portfolio Organisations, which means we’ll receive regular funding from them, 2012 “ 2015. As well as meaning we’ll know we can survive from one year to the next it means a lot to us as a gesture of faith in what we’re doing and where we’re going as a festival.
In what ways are you supporting local filmmaking talent at the festival this year?
We’re supportive of nurturing local filmmaking talent from the outset, through various workshops and hands on activities, through to presenting works by young filmmakers from North East England and the Scottish Borders as part of our Chris Anderson Award.
The competition celebrates filmmaking talent both sides of the border, through an open call for submissions, and a presentation of the selected works, which all compete for a cash prize designed to go towards their next film.
What are some of the highlights of this year’s festival attendees can look forward to?
Well the highlights start with the opening film “ the world premiere of a North East England“Iranian co-production called I Am Nasrine. It’s a really moving tale, powered by a great performance from Micsha Sadeghi as Nasrine, just one of those films where you’re with the lead character from the very beginning. The director Tina Gharavi, the producers, and cast & crew are all going to be there and we’re really excited about that.
We’ve also got the UK Premiere of Hello! How Are You, part of this new wave of Romanian cinema, except rather than being a heavy drama, essentially it’s a romantic comedy. The premise is really simple, a middle aged couple’s stale relationship leads them each to internet dating, only to find each other, but the consequences really are funny.
And I think one of my favourites of the Artist Trail is a piece in another ice house called Mastering Bambi which positions you as the deer themselves racing through an incredibly dark version of the Disney landscape. You can now walk the Artist Trail online on our website, but it’s really seeing these new works in old locations that really pays off “ at least for me, the ˜switch on’ of the trail on the first day of the Festival is always magical!
Tickets for Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival can be bought via its website.