FEATURE: Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: A Radical Duet by Onyeka Igwe

The 19th Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival returns to venues in the town from Thursday 7th-Sunday 10th March. Featuring world premieres by artists from nine different countries, with all films looking at liberation and freedom in a global context, the festival promises to be both relevant and emotional.

BFMAF Director Peter Taylor said of the festival: “We look to films capable of grappling with complex entanglements, expressing disciplines of hope that may draw us closer together.”

In line with the themes of liberation and freedom, the festival highlights filmmakers whose work greatly follows these topics. The first is Basma al-Sharif, a nomadic artist and filmmaker of Palestinian origin, whose debut feature Ourobous is an experimental homage to the Gaza Strip; also celebrated is Argentinian film director Eduardo Williams, who will showcase his film The Human Surge and its sequel The Human Surge 3, which explore characters alienated by the internet and the effects of technology.

The current wars in Ukraine and Palestine offer recollections of past conflicts in similar areas. Restorations of Leida Laius’ A Stolen Meeting and Heiny Srour’s The Hour of Liberation Has Arrived, set in Estonia and Oman respectively, look at life just before the fall of the USSR and the temporary secular and equalitarian society in Dhofar.

We look to films capable of grappling with complex entanglements, expressing disciplines of hope that may draw us closer together

The Propositions strand of the festival allows filmmakers to further expand on their work, and explain their journey behind each film. Premiering in this section include barrunto by Emilia Beatriz, an environmental look at grief and resistance in varying landscapes, from Puerto Rico to Scotland; and Onyeka Igwe’s radical theatre event And Let History Begin, which invites the audience to interact with her show. Her film A Radical Duet, about two anti-colonialist women in 1940s London is followed by a communal reading and discussion of Sylvia Wynter’s 1973 play Maskarade.

The festival is unique without its jury, and instead awards 23 films with a cash prize, ensuring they are all seen with equal merit. Some of the films in the New Cinema Awards include A Stone’s Throw, directed by Razan AlSalah (Palestine, Lebanon, Canada), which focuses on a Palestinian elder’s journey from being displaced from Haifa, Israel to a work camp on the Persian Gulf; To Exist Under Permanent Suspicion, directed by Valentin Noujaïm (France) in which an executive on the verge of a breakdown has violent visions in Paris’s giant business district La Défense; and History of the Present, directed by Margaret Salmon and Maria Fusco (UK), an ‘experimental feminist opera-film’ which discusses class and conflict, politics in Northern Ireland and the importance of working-class women’s voices.

There are also free screenings of films under the themes of space and place, with particular highlights including Hexham Heads by Chloë Delanghe and Mattijs Driesen, which looks at a series of paranormal events in 1970s Hexham through personal archives and photographic documentation; Ready or Not by Cécile B. Evans, an expansive research journey by Evans which follows students from a high school in northern Paris; Dau:añcut // Moving Along Image by Adam Piron, in which an unknown Ukrainian tattooed a portrait of a relative of a filmmaker in his Native American regalia. The film discusses what happens when the control of an image is lost.

The Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival takes place in various locations across Berwick from Thursday 7th-Sunday 10th March.

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