The 14th Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival
Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival brought together a diverse range of international and UK-based artists, with the transgressive work of young, queer and artists of colour forming the strongest elements
Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival (BFMAF) encompasses artist moving image, cinema, exhibitions, performances, talks and workshops. This diverse exploration of film and media arts takes places across the city, inviting visitors to explore both the geography and history of Berwick alongside the festival.
The programme is divided into several strands that can provide either an introduction or a more in-depth survey of a practice. The filmmakers in focus this year were Los Otros, a film studio based in the Philippines established by John Torres and Shireen Seno. This focus on South East Asian filmmaking continued with the Screening The Forest programme. Within both these programmes, an emphasis was placed on family life, daily interactions and our relationship to the environment.
Propositions enabled a deeper engagement with four practitioners through a series of films, performances and talks. Morgan Quaintance’s film, Another Decade stood out as an exploration of the Other through bringing together longstanding research into institutional corruption and exclusion, alongside a personal reflection on growing up as a young black man in London. Within Another Decade and the following discussion, Quaintance proposed a politics of the ‘Other Centre’, meaning to inhabit and celebrate a marginal position rather than aspiring and conforming to the patriarchal and capitalist centre.
Berwick New Cinema aims to present the best in new artist’s moving image and filmmaking, selected from both an open call and the programmer’s research. Tako Taal’s You Know it but it Don’t Know You, is a beautifully sensitive observation of how tourism functions in Gambia, placed within a wider political context through using the words of Taal’s grandmother. Stephanie Comilang’s Come to Me, Paradise also inhabits a carefully observed community, in this case, migrant Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. The film explores how communities can be maintained even within such tough, alienating conditions and shows how these women repudiate their exploitation through female support networks enabled by technology.
The Exhibitions programme focuses on artists working with moving image and occupies many unusual spaces across the town, allowing for a more diverse audience to encounter the works. Films that felt like a response to this were Heather Phillipson’s of Violence, Kevin Jerome Everson’s Carrs Down South and Rehana Zaman with the Liverpool Black Women Filmmakers’ How Does an Invisible Boy Disappear? Phillipson’s playfully sentimental film functions as a love letter to her dog, whilst Everson and Zaman also generated spaces of intimacy through producing close portraits of two marginalised communities: three generations of one family living in North Carolina and a group of young black women living in Liverpool. The Exhibitions programme has the potential to explore the wealth of moving image practices taking place within the visual arts currently, however, this year’s selection often felt like more of a gesture towards a set of ideas rather than a full embodiment of them.
Essential Cinema presents classic cinema alongside new contemporary works. Edgar Reitz and Ula Stöckl’s Tales of the Dumpster Kid is a hilariously subversive collection of 20 short films which take its female protagonist on a series of absurd, humiliating, frightening but ultimately emancipating journeys around 1970s Germany. The film was intended to be shown within pubs, where viewers could choose their own sequence of episodes, a fitting collective experience that BFMAF also provided.
Morgan Quaintance’s phrase ‘Other Centre’ is one way to describe the strategies of the strongest works of the festival, by young queer, feminist artists and filmmakers of colour. Fortifying the entire BFMAF with a sense of political and social urgency, these artists – each in markedly distinctive ways – operate from and create 'Other Centres' in order to engage processes of transgression as a means of forming new and powerful lines of community and thought.
Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival took place between 20-23 September