Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival: 2019 Preview

Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival is back in Hawick, with work by Phil Collins, Esther Urlus, Deborah S Phillips and Stephen Broomer among the lineup, as well as the annual film walk which is this year dedicated to Margaret Tait

Article by Jamie Dunn | 22 Apr 2019
  • Ceremony

The eyes of the experimental moving image world will once again turn to Hawick next month. For the last nine years, the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival has been bringing internationally renowned experimental work to this small town in the Scottish Borders. Taking place from 2-6 May, this year's edition looks as promising as ever.

British artist Phil Collins will be in town with the UK premiere of Ceremony, a film we're told is both a "documentary road movie and social-activist pamphlet" as it follows Collins on his journey to bring a Soviet statue of German philosopher Friedrich Engels back to Manchester, where he developed many of the ideas that would help inform the Communist Manifesto he wrote with Karl Marx.

Another feature-length work in the programme to catch the eye is the UK premiere of Stephen Broomer’s found footage fantasia Tondal's Vision. The Toronto-based filmmaker takes as his base material Italian film L'Inferno, a 1911 adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which he's reworked and mutated through a variety of analogue and digital techniques to create his own audio-visual spectacle. Broomer will give a Q&A after the film and will also contribute to Alchemy's annual symposium – the title this year is "Embrace the Strange".

The festival also welcomes back celebrated French digital experimentalist Jacques Perconte. As well as Perconte's live performance of new work The Eight Alps as part of the Cinema Expanded strand, there's also the UK premiere of his short film Or / Or Hawick, which was shot on the River Teviot during last year's festival.

Analogue-nuts should get a kick out of the three retrospective programmes in this year's festival featuring avant-garde artists who work primarily on film. Alchemy will introduce the extraordinary film by Rotterdam-based filmmaker Esther Urlus, including her newest work, study for a battle (studie voor een veldslag), as well as a programme by Urlus' fellow Dutch filmmaker Barbara Meter. There's also a programme of 16mm shorts focusing on colour and collage by Berlin-based analogue artist Deborah S Phillips.

A highlight of the festival is always the Film Walk, in which the audience hike through the Borders countryside to a special site-specific screening. This year the Walk will be headed by writer-actor-director Gerda Stevenson, who starred in Margaret Tait’s 1992 feature Blue Black Permanent. As part of the Margaret Tait centenary, Stevenson will give an illustrated talk at Alchemy discussing Tait’s multi-faceted creativity, and her influence on the younger generation. She will also lead the Film Walk, which will culminate in Stevenson reading a new poem commissioned by Alchemy in response to Tait and her work ahead of a screening of Tait’s Orquil Burn in Wilton Dean Village Hall.

Many of Alchemy's screenings take place in the town's dedicated cinema, Heart of Hawick, while site-specific installations are dotted in unusual venues around town. The festival has also invested this year in a much-improved second screening room at Unit Four on Towerdykeside, where expanded cinema performances will also take place. "It’s testament to our growth and expansion that we’ve had to invest more in a second screening venue," says the Alchemy's new creative director Michael Pattison. "We’ve taken measures to make Unit Four into an exciting new cinema space worthy of 16mm projections and post-screening Q&As."

This is just a fraction of the 147 moving-image works – which encompass features, shorts and installations – screening over seven venues and across five days at Alchemy. For full programme details, head to

Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, various venues, Hawick, 2-6 May