A couple of weeks ago I had the absolute pleasure of hopping on the south-bound train over the border to Berwick-upon-Tweed for their annual film festival. The Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is known for it’s use of historic venues all around the town so I was very lucky to visit on a sunny Saturday afternoon – although I’m sure some Berwickers will tell you it’s always sunny there! The theme for 2014, BFMAF’s 10th birthday, was “Border Crossing”. Considering the Festival took place in the same week as the Scottish Referendum and given Berwick’s unique half Sottish/half English limbo-land history, this theme was perfectly timed. My itinerary for the day was set – a tour of the Artist Trail, the documentary Forbidden Voices, and a reception at Kazmiranda Cafe followed by the Inntravel Short Film Award screening and ceremony.
The Artist Trail is a series of moving image installations placed around the town. The venues are all buildings of historical interest such as ice houses or an 18th century gunpowder store, and many of them are usually closed to the public, meaning you get extra bang for your buck. Except that it’s free. But you know what I’m saying. I really enjoyed Jasmina Cibic’s Fruits of Our Land which was screened in the Town Hall Council Chamber. A re-enactment of a real debate over an artwork’s suitability to decorate a parliament building and the meaning of representation was ideally placed in the Council Chamber and really made me chuckle. I also enjoyed Manufactured Britishness by Kristina Cranfeld, an absurd take on the “Life in the UK” citizenship test. I must admit it took me a while to get it – but I’ve tried that test and failed it, badly, so that’s no surprise! My apparent lack of Bristishness aside, the film was tragically comic and a timely exploration of what it means to be British and if national identity is something which is even possible to prescribe. (It’s not).
Barbara Miller introduced her documentary, Forbidden Voices, via recorded message and it proved to be an inspiring watch. Forbidden Voices gives us an insight into the work and lives of three female bloggers who are fighting against oppression and censorship in their countries – Yoani Sanchez in Cuba, Farnaz Seifi from Iran and Zeng Jinya in China. I’m not sure if there are anymore screenings planned for the UK, but you can find out more information on the film here.
Finally, I attended the Inntravel Short Film Award. Inntravel are dubbed the ‘slow holiday people’ with a focus on taking the road less travelled, taking your time, and taking it all in – after a day wandering on the Elizabethan Walls this seemed like a great partnership. The short film programme consisted of 7 films all responding to the “Border Crossing” theme.
In a strong programme, the eventual winner of the award was Roy Dib with Mondial 2010. Shot on a hand-held camcorder, Mondial 2010 is a tender exploration of boundaries; geographical, legal and social. A gay couple keep a travel video-log of their trip to Ramallah, Palestine but the pressure of keeping their relationship under wraps as well as the reality of life in a conflict zone soon weighs too heavy. Mondial 2010 is filmed by one half of the couple, placing the viewer directly into their moments of fear, intimacy and uncertainty in an engaging and thoughtful way. A worthy winner indeed. Roy Dib was in attendance at the Festival to receive the award from the jury of Catherine Shoard, Marcus Coates and Hilke Doering and presented by Eunice Olumide.
My trip to the tenth Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival was a bit of a whirlwind affair, taking in umpteen art installations, a feature documentary and a well-realised programme of shorts. I was only disappointed not to have longer, but the best festivals leave you wanting more, and this one certainly did. Looking forward to next year’s edition already!