The 23rd to the 25th September saw a weekend of events for the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival . This year’s festival, entitled Once Upon a Time, combined films, installations and locations around Berwick to explore the depiction of fairy tales on screen.
I was at the festival on Friday and Saturday, and managed to make it along to three of the feature films; the Young Filmmaker’s Award; and plenty of the installations that made up the Artist’s Trail.
Overall, it was a great experience, the staff organising the festival should be complimented for both their friendliness and enthusiasm for everything on display. The programme was very well thought out, and epitomised what a small festival like this should be like: a strong theme, great use of locations around the town, and a good variety of films for audiences to choose from.
I Am Nasrine
There are not very many films set in the North-East of England, so it was great to see one in which it features so prominently at a festival in the North-East.
Opening in Iran, I Am Nasrine follows a brother, Ali, and a sister, Nasrine, as they are forced to leave Iran to make a new life for themselves in England. Nasrine, who is just 16, enrols in a local school a strikes up a friendship with Nicole, a member of the traveling community. Encouraged by Nicole, Nasrine starts to enjoy all the freedoms being away from both Iran and her parents affords.
Meanwhile, Ali has to work two jobs just to get by. He finds it much more difficult to adjust to life in the UK, and shows little interest in anything other than his work. However, we soon realise Ali, like Nasrine, is longing to form a new identity for himself, if only he had the confidence to show people who he really was.
Giving a depiction of modern Britain very similar to other social realists like Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, I Am Nasrine paints a portrait of the country which shows a great gulf in civil liberties between it and Iran, and yet the same kind of close-minded and ultimately cruel people that forced Nasrine and Ali to flee their home. Part of the message of the film seems to be that regardless of what a government says is right or wrong, people will still find ways to be suspicious of one another and inflict cruelty on one another.
Moomin and Midsummer Madness
I must confess to never having ‘got’ the Moomins growing up. Their world seemed strange and foreign, and I seemed to find it difficult to relate to their stories. However, the chance to see them on the big screen seemed like a the perfect opportunity to give them another chance.
Moomin and Midsummer Madness is a movie produced in 2008, and is a compilation of the relevant episodes from the stop-motion TV series made between 1977 and 1982.
In it we see Moomintroll and his family forced to leave their home after a volcano erupts and causes a huge flood to engulf their residence. Luckily a theatre floats by, and the family jumps aboard to discover the joys of producing their very own play.
I watched the film with a mixture of delight and suspicion. Delight at incredibly uncynical and innocent nature of the story, but suspicion as to whether it would appeal to the 21st century children of today.
In one of the opening scenes for example, the volcano causes the earth to split open and Moomintroll loses his toothbrush. He seems genuinely upset about this, as do all the characters around him, and the film goes to great lengths to make us understand what a tragedy this was. However, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the kids watching would value their dental hygiene as much as Moomintroll clearly does.
Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. On my way out I heard a girl, who appeared to be around four years old, still concerned about the toothbrush that had disappeared a good hour and a half earlier. “Where did it go?” she asked “Will they never get it back?” It would appear, regardless of the culture you grow up in, the best stories remain so generations on.
I left the theatre entranced and won over by the power of the Moomins, and hope I will get another chance to witness their charm and curiosity in the near future.
Chris Anderson Award for Best Young Filmmaker
On Saturday afternoon I sat in a theatre surrounded by dozens of faces soon to be projected on the big screen in front of me. The purpose was to celebrate young people’s efforts in creating their very own short films, and afterwards one was chosen to receive the Chris Anderson Award.
Two of the films stood out from the crowd. Driving Me Crazy, which expertly balanced comedy and horror, as the central character takes her driving test. The problem is she’s absolutely obsessed with her boyfriend, and can’t concentrate on her driving long enough to do anything her examiner asks.
What starts out as a fairly gentle comedy, then takes a darker twist, as we soon realise the boyfriend isn’t as enthused as his obsessive other half.
With a great performance from the lead, as she gradually changes from ditzy to psychotic, Driving Me Crazy was a very well structured, funny and gruesome tale, and rightly received a special mention from the jury.
The film which won the award was entitled Brian and Brian’s Amazing Eggventure, a stop motion animation by Mark Boston. It concerned two friends: Brian (a gorilla) and Brian (a duck) who are trying to prevent the world from being overrun by fried eggs.
Just as bizarre as it sounds, the best way to describe it is perhaps The Mighty Boosh for the Spongebob generation. Another good point of reference is the French stop motion film A Town Called Panic.
Young director, Boston, should be complimented for creating such a bizarre, bold and brilliant film with such a unique and uncompromising vision propelling it.
Hello! How are you?
Eastern European cinema is not known for its comedy, as anyone who’s seen Four Months, Three Weeks, and Two Days can testify to. However, coming straight from Romania is a Romantic Comedy which tries to change that stereotype; a Rom-Rom-Com if you will.
In a plot similar to The Pina Colada Song, or perhaps even You’ve Got Mail, a husband and wife are getting bored and frustrated by their marriage, and turn to online chat rooms to try and find another kindred spirit. Predictably, they meet one another, and fall in love all over again. The only problem is, they don’t know it’s their spouse on the other end, and both go to great lengths to make sure the other person does not find out about their online affair.
A subplot concerns their son who is exploring his own sexuality, and discovering he has a real knack for picking up women. At the start of the movie, he comes across as arrogant, and completely self-centred. However, he soon realises he wants more than sex, and so he too must explore what brings him satisfaction in a relationship, which in turn causes him to question what he really values in life.
This being an Eastern European film, there’s still plenty of room for misery. The predictable third act reveal makes for some unpredictable consequences. Things aren’t so easily resolved for the husband and wife as we might have hoped. The film often leaves the audience frustrated as we see the potential of a couple unwilling or perhaps unable to rekindle the obvious love and affection that bubbles underneath the surface.
The message of the film seems to be that love is there for people who want to find it, but it often leaves us exposed in ways we may not like.
The Artist’s Trail
A number of short, artistic, installations dotted around the town made up The Artist’s Trail. The highlight for me was a display entitled Maria. To view it, you had to walk through a dark tunnel and peer through some peep holes. As you did so, you saw a hologram of a woman clothed in white with her back to you slowly dancing. The location and way in which you had to view it gave the whole thing the feeling of some kind of bizarre high-class peepshow. An eerily beautiful exhibit.
Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival will return in September 2012 with extra funding and as a result a much bigger programme. You can keep up to date with them all year round via their twitter page.