Northern highlights

We preview the Berwick Film Festival

by Michael Pattison

Cecilia Stenbom's The Case
Cecilia Stenbom's The Case
The ninth annual Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival runs from September 25-29 at multiple venues across Tweedside - opening with The Hidden Child and closing with For Those In Peril.

Located at some remove from the forthcoming London Film Festival’s ticket prices, this year’s Berwick Film Festival represents some seriously welcome value for money. It’s not just that a Festival Pass is going for £35 (£30 concessions), it’s that the films and events it gets you access to all complement one another under this year’s theme, North by Northeast, which looks to the border town’s Nordic heritage as well as its cultural connections to northern Europe.

What’s more, because it is also at a remove from the bombast of bigger cousins such as Edinburgh International Film Festival (June) and the aforementioned London Film Festival (October), Berwick boasts an especially communal spirit, with all of its feature films screening at the Maltings Theatre & Cinema – a logistical nicety that means no two films overlap.

During each edition, Berwick is swamped by guests, and attendees are advised to book accommodation early. Aware that visitors may only be planning a day or two in the region, then, we’ve put together a small preview of the goods on offer. Think of the following as the cream of the crop, as must-see highlights in a programme of, well, must-see highlights.

All screenings are at The Maltings Cinema unless otherwise stated.

The Hidden Child (2013) - Wednesday, September 25, 7pm

The recent wave of strong Nordic imports continues with Per Hanefjord’s adaptation of a bestseller by Camilla Läckberg, which kicks off the festival at its Opening Gala. As its title suggests, the thematic focus is twofold: secrets and families… and the setting’s a sparse coastal village in Western Sweden. This international premiere is preceded by the world premiere of The Case, a nine-minute short by Cecilia Stenbom, shot in Berwick and styled after recent Scandinavian crime thrillers. Commissioned in partnership with the Berwick Visual Arts residency programme, Stenbom’s film also plays as a looped installation throughout the festival at Custom House.

Festen (1998) - Thursday, September 26, 1pm

Thomas Vinterberg and Lars von Trier’s masterpiece, the first film made under the Dogme manifesto, needs no introduction 15 years on from its premiere at Cannes, but Berwick’s giving us one anyway, in the form of The Hollywood Reporter critic Neil Young, who is as much a fan of the film as this writer. Huddle into the Maltings, then, for an emotional intensity rarely if at all matched since. And to match its themes of resilience at times of difficulty, it’s on 35mm.

Tomasz Popakul's Ziegenort, showing as part of the Coast to Coast showcase
Tomasz Popakul's Ziegenort, showing as part of the Coast to Coast showcase
Coast to Coast (2012-13) - Friday September 27, 1pm

From an isolated Hebridean peninsula to the Finnish archipelago of Turku to a seaside idyll and onward to seas north of Northway. Four shorts - Fishcakes And Cocaine, Archipelago Science Fiction, Ziegenort and A Tale Of Two Ships - ranging from 10-25 minutes offer varied textures and cinematic forms to document and probe life at (and on) the sea. As always, shorts programmes are as joyous as a lucky dip…

Inntravel Award for Best Short Film (2012-13) - Saturday September 28, 8pm

…which is why this inaugural shorts competition, on the festival’s penultimate night, is a must. Sponsored by walking/cycling holiday specialists Inntravel and judged by a panel comprising Sight & Sound editor Nick James, artist-curator Anna Linder and filmmaker Eva Weber, the competition features eight shorts responding to the festival’s theme and hailing from the UK, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. The winner receives a £500 prize. Investing in and showcasing such work reveals Berwick’s priorities: its expansion and quiet audacity as a film and arts festival shouldn’t be underestimated. See these films.

Bravehearts (2012) - Sunday, September 29, 5pm

Kari Anne Moe’s Norwegian-Swedish co-production documents the harrowing events of 22 July 2011, on which a two-part terrorist attack by fascist extremist Anders Behring Breivik rocked Norway and the rest of the world. Bravehearts focuses on the massacre carried out by Breivik on Utøya Island, which took the lives of 69 youths visiting the region as part of a summer camp organised by Norway’s Labour Party.

Emily Richardson's Petrolia
Emily Richardson's Petrolia
Installations Thu 26 – Sun 29 Sept, 11am-6pm

In truth, you ought to catch all of the many free-to-attend installations at this year’s festival, but if pushed for time, don’t miss the world premiere of Kelly Richardson’s latest project, The Last Frontier, at Bankhill’s Ice House, which depicts a future landscape in which the last frontier forests have disappeared. As well, a trip to the Prison Cells in Berwick’s Town Hall will bring you Northern Lights, a series of short videos - 69.4 Degrees North, Arctic is Not Too Far From Her(e), Amohr, Reyjavik Nights, Mountain In Shadow - set in the far north by filmmakers from as far and wide as Eva Weber (Germany), Yva Hung (South Korea), artist duo Rammatik (Faroe Islands), Tim Harrison (UK) and Lois Patiño (Spain).

Elsewhere, set an hour aside to fully digest On the Precipice at The Big M, an exhibition of seven installations, all engaging with landscape, inside an inflatable mobile cinema space. If stills are anything to go by, Emily Richardson’s Petrolia is something to behold.

Also screening at the festival: The Deep and Kauwboy.

Once the festival begins proper, of course, there’ll be more in-depth coverage on the way. For more information and to book tickets visit the official site.

Tim Harrison's Reykjavik Nights will screen as part of Northern Lights
Tim Harrison's Reykjavik Nights will screen as part of Northern Lights

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