Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival 2020 New Cinema Competition Programme

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Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is delighted to announce the main programme for its sixteenth edition, taking place from Thursday 17 September to Sunday 11 October 2020. Online access to the Festival in the UK will be through Festival Passes and professional accreditation will be available worldwide.

For the first time, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival’s New Cinema Competition includes both Short and Feature length films. The strand encompasses the Festival’s view of some of the most distinctive works of new cinema and artists’ moving image being made around the world today. All selected filmmakers will share the Berwick New Cinema Award. This year, it is a non-competitive prize created by reallocating funds that would have ordinarily supported filmmakers' travel and accommodation at the Festival.

Comprising 17 films from almost as many countries, this year’s strand features works from Belgium to Lesotho to Tunisia to Vietnam. The selected films will be available to view on the festival’s new online platform and expanded through live discussions, new writing and podcasts over three weeks this autumn.

Disregarding boundaries of genre, form, filmic conventions and expectations, these are vital short, medium and long format works which problematise specific political and individual identities with liveness and agency: At Those Terrifying Frontiers Where The Existence and Disappearance of People Fade Into Each Other (Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme, 2019, PS) wrestles with the problematics of representing a people displaced and disappeared; maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (Sky Hopinka, 2020, US) contemplates the afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between among First Peoples in the Pacific Northwest; following its premiere at IDFA 2019, Up at Night  (Nelson Makengo, 2019, DRC/BE) takes the viewer to Kinshasa, documenting its inhabitants’ creativity and resilience facing precarious conditions; in its festival world premiere, Way My It Did I (Maria Anastassiou, 2020, UK) challenges the production of "truths" or "facts" in a Brexit-era "post-truth" media environment with a filmic response produced collaboratively with a group of people at the historic point of entry for immigrants into the UK—the Thames Estuary.

Along these lines, two films shift attention to the European south: the Cinéma du Réel 2020 Short film award winner Don’t Rush (Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky, 2020, BE/FR/DE) captures three young men who meet on a dense summer night to feel the "high" of a dozen Rebetiko songs celebrating the effects of Hashish and playfully questioning yesterday’s and today’s search for freedom and political commitment. Also a Cinéma du Réel 2020 winner with the Grand Prix, The year of discovery (Luis Lopez Carrasco, 2020, ES/CH) employs a split-screen approach to explore – both in 1990s Spain and the present day – the nuances of economic and social relations which led to Murcia's regional parliament being raised, with the complications of European liberal economies discussed from the standpoint of punters in a downtown bar. 

The split-screen also serves completely different style and content concerns in artist Rhea Dillon’s festival debut The Name I Call Myself (Rhea Dillon, 2019, UK), which unpicks multifaceted LGBTQ+ identities within the local black British diaspora through the works of Audre Lorde and W.E.B. Du Bois. Another queer voice is the protagonist of Marriage Story (Jessica Dunn Rovinelli, 2020, US), an auto-fiction lesbian poem in the language of the divine. Completing this triptych proposing new narratives for intersectional feminist biographies, and also screening in the UK for the first time, is Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award winner for Visionary Filmmaking, This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019, LS) an enquiry into ecology, spirituality and indigenous relationships to land, life and bodies.

Two films premiering respectively in the UK and worldwide explore the nuances of labour: the traditional one with Fuel (Yu Araki, 2019, JP), that follows an expert griller at the Kushiro Robata restaurant in Hokkaido, and the creative one with Patrick (Luke Fowler, 2020, UK), in which the Turner-Prize nominated artist focuses on the singular life and work of hi-NRG disco and EDM producer Patrick Cowley with archival sources, self-shot 16mm film and sound recordings.

Six visionary works experimenting with the art of storytelling close this year’s selection: the debut short This Day Won’t Last (Mouaad el Salem, 2020, TUN/BE) shares a visceral and clandestine account of a young Tunisian man, a self-portrait turning into a collective one; LIQUID STRANGER (Stefan Ramirez Perez, 2020, DE) examines the act of representation by looking at the performed surface—twisted to camp potential—where the characters and the image itself continually slip through the grasp of the viewer; The Cypress Dance (Mariana Caló & Francisco Queimadela, 2020, PT) offers a sensorial portrait of a family circle immersed in an at times natural, at others imaginary landscape;  presented like the previous title at FID Marseille 2020, N.P (Lisa Spilliaert, 2020, BE), displays a complex web of relationships to reflect on how a translation relates to its original, fiction to reality, and on their often incestuous interaction. Enamoured with the practice of showing and recounting stories are eventually two stunningly cinematic works screening in the UK for the first time: Locarno’s Pardi di domani 2020 upstream and downstream The Unseen River (Phạm Ngọc Lân, 2020, VT/LAO) and International Film Festival Rotterdam’s Desterro (Maria Clara Escobar, 2020, BR/PT/AR) which skilfully explores the loss, death and struggle of being.

Many congratulations to all of the selected artists and filmmakers:

Berwick New Cinema Shorts

At Those Terrifying Frontiers Where The Existence and Disappearance of People Fade Into Each Other  | Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme | 2019 | Palestinian Territory | 11min | World festival premiere

Fragments from Edwards Said’s most personal and poetic work, After the Last Sky, are repurposed to create a new script that reflects on what it means now to be constructed as an “illegal” person, body, or entity. The relationship between fugitivity, fragility, and futurity becomes manifest in this field. The project uses low-resolution images that were circulated online; the avatar software renders the missing data and information. – Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abbou-Rahme

Way My It Did I | Maria Anastassiou | 2020 | UK | 36min | World festival premiere

In the Port of Tilbury - a place historically a point of entry for migrants to the UK - filmmaker Maria Anastassiou worked collaboratively with a group of people recently arrived to the town to paint a portrait of life in the transient space of the Thames Estuary. 

Fuel | Yu Araki | 2019 | Japan | 17min | UK premiere

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire.” Yu Araki’s enticing short film is a measured double portrait, firstly of a place—the Kushiro Robata restaurant in Hokkaido, northern Japan—as well as a person, the expert griller who slow cooks food at the centre of the restaurant over a bed of glowing orange charcoal.

The Cypress Dance | Mariana Caló & Francisco Queimadela | 2020 | Portugal | 37min | UK premiere

Mariana appears to us in her solitude, a woman and painter, at the height of her search for pleasure and desire, committed to artistic representations and her family life. Witty figures of strangeness, eroticism and violence emerge. Mariana, Henrique, Artur and Rafael, together or individually, find themselves in mutual projections and symbiotic relationships, in the days spent outdoors and in imaginary places. A sensorial portrait, which combines simple relationships of contact and affection, exploratory moments in nature and creations of the spirit.

Marriage Story | Jessica Dunn Rovinelli | 2020 | US | 9min | World premiere

An auto-fiction under the eyes of a female Christ, a marriage as a step into the forbidden land of the holy, a lesbian poem in the language of the divine, a paean to the color red, the world's slowest rave.

This day won’t last | Mouaad el Salem | 2020 | Tunisia/Belgium | 25min | World premiere

A day that could also be a life. A young man who could also be an older woman. A nightmare that could also be a dream. In Tunisia, while it could also be somewhere else: on the border between the necessity and the fear to make a film, the necessity and the fear for the revolution, This day won’t last is a cooperation with a distance. That is how this self-portrait turns into a group portrait. Clandestine, but straight from the heart: an end that could also lead to a new beginning.

Don’t Rush | Elise Florenty & Marcel Türkowsky | 2020 | Belgium/France/Germany | 54min | International premiere

Three young men – two brothers and their cousin – meet on a dense summer night to feel the “high” of a dozen “Hasiklidika” songs; Rebetiko songs from the beginning of the 20th century which celebrate the effects of Hashish. But beyond the pleasures of drugs, it is here a question of love, of joy and sadness, a search for freedom and political commitment... Little by little, yesterday's counterculture, made out of poverty and violence, and built on the pains of exile, reverberates the one of today.

Patrick | Luke Fowler | 2020 | UK | 21min | World premiere

Patrick is made entirely from archival sources and self shot 16mm film and sound recordings. It focuses on the singular life and work of Patrick Cowley; a producer of electronic dance music who pioneered the hi-NRG "San Francisco Sound" . Drawing on a long form interview with Maurice Tani (Patrick’s musical partner), Patrick deploys the methodology of polyvalent editing (a concept and technique developed by Warren Sonbert, an independent, queer SF filmmaker whose life dovetails with Cowley’s) to create a textured and intimate portrait of Cowley’s brief yet intensely creative life.

Up at Night | Nelson Makengo | 2019 | Democratic Republic of the Congo/Belgium | 21min | UK premiere

In a Kishasha neighbourhood faced with near-constant power outages, residents find creative solutions to the lack of light. The promise of a consistent source of electricity is found in the construction of a hydropower scheme, long in development but not yet completed. The practical and philosophical implications of living in darkness are pondered in this short film.

The Unseen River | Phạm Ngọc Lân | 2020 | Vietnam/Laos | 23min | UK premiere

Stories told along the river: a woman reunites with her ex-lover at a hydroelectric plant; meanwhile, a young man travels downstream to a temple in search of a cure for his insomnia.

LIQUID STRANGER | Stefan Ramirez Perez | 2020 | Germany | 14min | World festival premiere

A knife suspended in the air, a PVC trench coat, a slick of red lipstick and multiple stories of murder and obsession all become signifying agents in this camp mash-up of language, narrative and performance. This experimental short film challenges any claim for authenticity – a work in which the image cannot be trusted – least of all in the eyes of the viewer.

The Name I Call Myself | Rhea Dillon | 2019 | UK | 15min | World festival premiere

Rejecting a catch-all definition of blackness while cast across two-screens, The Name I Call Myself unpicks multifaceted LGBTQ identities within the local black British diaspora. References to Audre Lorde and W.E.B. Du Bois’s idea of double consciousness permeate the film, inviting viewers to interrogate multiplicities of Black identity.

Berwick New Cinema Features

The year of Discovery | Luis Lopez Carrasco | 2020 | Spain/Switzerland | 200min | UK premiere

In 1992 – 500 years after the beginning of Spain's global empire with the discovery of America – Spain proudly presented itself to the international community as a modern, developed, dynamic country through the Olympic Games in Barcelona and the Expo in Seville. But for filmmaker Luis López Carrasco, 1992 was also the year in which the regional parliament building in Cartagena was razed during furious protests against the threatened closure of various local industries.

Desterro | Maria Clara Escobar | 2020 | Brazil/Portugal/Argentina | 123min | UK premiere

One home is on fire. All homes.

One trip turns into several and this is one with no return.

Many women talk. They tell their stories.

The loss, death and struggle of being, alongside others.

This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection | Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese |2019 | Lesotho | 120min | UK premiere

Following the death of her only surviving relative, an elderly woman begins to make plans for her own funeral. Resistance and resentment build as her determination to be laid to rest in her ancestral home is disrupted by government plans to build a reservoir on the land.

*maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore | Sky Hopinka | 2020 | US | 80min | European premiere

This film follows Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier's wanderings through each of their worlds as they wander through and contemplate the afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between.  Spoken mostly in chinuk wawa, their stories are departures from the Chinookan origin of death myth, with its distant beginning and circular shape.

N.P | Lisa Spilliaert | 2020 | Belgium | 60min | UK premiere

Four young people fascinated by the book N.P by Banana Yoshimoto meet over the summer in Japan. They all share a connection or history with this collection of autobiographical stories written by the late Sarao Takase. The film uses their complex web of relationships to reflect on how a translation relates to its original, fiction to reality; and on their often incestuous interaction.


About The Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival 

Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival (BFMAF) is an artistically ambitious, accessible and inclusive organisation for new cinema and artists’ moving image. Based in North Northumberland, the Festival leads through collaboration and research. With a resolute commitment to peer support, artistic production and community development, the Film Festival is recognised for its innovative programming and critical engagement. The annual Berwick New Cinema Competition champions the Festival’s view of some of the most distinctive and unexpected works of new cinema and artists’ moving image being made around the world today.

This year’s selection was researched and selected by the BFMAF 2020 programming team: Ana David, Christina Demetriou, Myriam Mouflih, Herb Shellenberger and Peter Taylor.

The Berwick New Cinema Award is supported by Berwick-upon-Tweed Town Council.

The Town Council was created on 3rd March 2008 and has 16 voluntary Councillors who represent 7 wards covering Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal, which have a combined population of about 12,000.

Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and a registered charity. It fundraises for all of its artistic programme and core costs with support from public bodies, charitable trusts, foundations and individual donations. These contributions directly support the artists, filmmakers, audiences and creative professionals with whom the Festival works. The principal supporters of the 16th Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival are the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, Community Foundation serving Tyne & Wear and Northumberland and Northumberland County Council.

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