Festival’s return is a big success
The Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival successfully returned to the town in September for its 17th edition.
After a year-long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it welcomed more than 500 attendees across three days. This included 17 screenings at The Maltings alongside a workshop at the Gymnasium Gallery and evening events at the Peace Church.
Attendees praised both the festival’s and the Maltings’ attention to providing a safe and socially distanced experience in the screening spaces.
As with last year, the festival provided access to its acclaimed programme online via its website, which has seen more than 1,000 people watching the films remotely.
The line-up this year included films from around the world such as Colombia, India, Palestine, Spain, Vietnam, Western Sahara, Cambodia and Sweden.
With themes looking at mutuality and solidarity, the festival drew attention to what support can be offered to filmmakers and artists working in hostile environments. In this spirit, the festival decided to split the traditional Berwick New Cinema award prize-money between all 15 filmmakers, regardless of whether they entered a short or feature-length film.
The workshop at the Gymnasium Gallery offered a quieter space during the festival for a limited number of attendees to discuss films made by young black women – covering topics of poetry, sensuality and self-expression, alongside a rare screening of S. Pearl Sharp's Back Inside Herself, recently restored by Cinenova.
Other highlights included the opening night film, the World Premiere of Idrish, about the Birmingham activist Muhammad Idrish. He attended the screening and was in a Q&A alongside director Adam Lewis Jacob and sound artist Claude Nouk.
The festival also showcased a film made by local people in Berwick with the help of filmmaker Kimberley O'Neill and communities programme co-ordinator Chloë Smith.
The film In10ded Ten: The Fate of the Middle Place imagined what Berwick in the year 2031 could be like in terms of how people, technology and nature may change.
The communities programme continues with the launch of Screen Time, an online course for local young people to learn how to put on their own film screenings that will culminate in a series of events at the Radio Rooms in Tweedmouth. Local schools will also be able to watch a selection of this year's programme.
This year's edition also saw the festival's co-founder, Huw Davies, step down as long-standing chair of the board.
Festival director Peter Taylor said: “I’m really grateful for everyone who was able to join us over the weekend at The Maltings, Gymnasium Gallery and St Aidan’s Peace Art Centre.
“I deeply appreciate the care everyone took in looking out for each other and their health in what for many of us was a first return to the cinema since March 2020.
“In the meanwhile, the festival has expanded in even more abundance online and we hope that has provided a lot of other ways for people to get together and watch some brilliant films.”