Fact or Fiction?

We take a look at the programme for Berwick's Film and Media Arts Festival

by Rebecca Naughten

The War Game is among the films screening in Berwick
The War Game is among the films screening in Berwick
Berwick-upon-Tweed celebrates the 11th edition of its Film and Media Arts Festival from September 23 to 27. Following on from last year's theme of Border Crossing, the 2015 festival expands even further into nebulous territories by taking the theme of Fact or Fiction to encourage visitors and viewers to navigate, explore and question the overlapping borders between fact and fantasy, journalism and propaganda, and preconceived conceptions of documentary and narrative film.

Alongside the Fact or Fiction titles - which include Peter Watkins's long-censored The War Game (1965) and Vampir-Cuadecuc (Pere Portabella, 1970), one of the strangest behind-the-scenes films ever made (transforming Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970) with Christopher Lee into something genuinely otherworldly) - the 2015 festival also introduces a new strand: Berwick New Cinema. This section includes films such as Androids Dream (Ion de Sosa, 2014), Abdul & Hamza (Marko Grba Singh, 2015) and A Spell Of Fever (Safia Benhaim, 2014), highlighting new and innovative filmmaking that pushes genre boundaries. The strand encompasses shorts, midlengths and feature-length films. A series of talks will take place over the festival weekend to contextualise these films and potentially open up a debate around the art of cinema.

BFMAF 2015 also includes two competitive events for filmmakers. On the Saturday night, seven short films and artists' videos compete in the 3rd Inntravel Short Film Awards (the details of the shortlist can be seen here), presided over by a jury consisting of curator Fatos Üstek and filmmakers Beatrice Gibson and Salomé Lamas (Lamas's No Man's Land is also screening at the Festival). All of the films in contention are screened during the awards, with the winner announced at the end of the presentation (with a prize of £750). On the Sunday afternoon, the seventh Young Filmmakers Showcase draws attention to young filmmaking talent from across north-east England and south-east Scotland, with two age categories - The Chris Anderson Award (for filmmakers 15-19 years old) and The Young Filmmakers Award (for filmmakers 14 years and under). The shortlisted filmmakers will also see their films on the big screen and be in with a chance of winning £250 towards their next filmmaking project.

Ion de Sosa: "Making it look like this film wasn't made today also draws attention to the texture and the colour"
Ion de Sosa: "Making it look like this film wasn't made today also draws attention to the texture and the colour"
One of BFMAF's most distinctive characteristics is the emphasis given to installations by artists and filmmakers in unusual spaces around Berwick, including ice houses, prison cells and the town's medieval fortifications. In association with the Fact or Fiction theme, the festival will present new commissions by Paul Rooney (Berwick's new artist in residence), Seamus Harahan, Elise Florenty and Marcel Türkowsky, and CIRCA Projects, as well as the European premiere of Peter Burr’s Cave Exits and new works by Kathleen Herbert, Grace Schwindt, Renate Lorenz & Pauline Boudry, and Pacho Velez. The festival’s 2015 Artists in Focus are Seamus Harahan and Deimantas Narkevi?ius, whose works are featured in both retrospective screenings and installations. All of the installation spaces are within easy walking distance of each other, free of charge to enter and will be open 11am - 6pm between Thursday 24th and Sunday 27th. Full details of all the installations and venues can be found here.

A range of events are programmed across the festival duration in addition to the film screenings and installations, including musical performances and storytelling. This year BFMAF has further reduced the price of passes and tickets: a Full Festival Pass is £25, a Weekend Pass is £15, and a Day Pass is £10 (or £20, £10 and £8 respectively for concessions). Tickets are also available for individual screenings and events. For more information - and to purchase passes or tickets - head to the festival's official website: berwickfilm-artsfest.com.

The festival's film programme is as follows (all screenings are at The Maltings Theatre & Cinema):

Wednesday, September 23

Thursday, September 24

  • A Spell Of Fever - 4pm
  • Salam Cinema (Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1995) - 7pm + special guest Phil Collins Q&A
  • Battles (Isabelle Tollenaere, 2015) - 9:15pm

Friday, September 25

  • Berwick New Cinema Shorts with Q&A (various) - 1:45pm
  • Vampir-Cuadecuc - 4pm
  • Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze, 2013) - 7pm
  • Mercuriales (Virgil Vernier, 2014) - 9pm

Saturday, September 26

  • Archipelagos, Naked Granites (Daphné Hérétakis, 2014) + I Forgot! (Eduardo Williams, 2014) - 12pm
  • No Man's Land (Salomé Lamas, 2012) - 1:30pm
  • Abdul & Hamza - 2pm
  • Seamus Harahan profile screening + Q&A - 3:30pm
  • The War Game + The Dud Effect (Deimantas Narkevi?ius, 2008) - 5pm
  • Inntravel Short Film Awards - 7pm
  • The Raft of the Medusa (Richard Heslop, 2015) - 9:30pm

Sunday, September 27

  • Deimantas Narkevicius profile screening + Q&A - 1:30pm
  • Young Filmmakers Showcase - 1pm
  • Androids Dream - 3:30pm
  • Limbo (Anna Sofie Hartmann, 2014) - 4:30pm
  • Closing Gala: Güeros (Alonso Ruiz Palacios, 2014) - 7pm

More reviews to follow.

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