Wednesday 16 December 2009

Town Mouse/Country Mouse online

No, this is not a new publication that tells you how best to store your nuts over the winter months instead of using them as party treats over the Christmas period. It arises out of sheer frustration.

Last night, allured by the Stella Artois sponsored Recyclage de luxe Online Film Festival on the excellent movie site The Auteurs - seven classics of the French New Wave free to view, one a day for a week - I was trying to watch Jacques Demy's Lola (1961). 17 seconds into the film, a white sports car on a windy esplanade, and that was all I got. All attempts to reload came to nothing. Testing this morning Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1961) things are minimally better but who can enjoy a feature film in 6 second bursts with much, much longer pauses in between.

Once again, it's the inadequate broadband in rural areas that disappoints. Mine can just about cope with YouTube, barely with BBC iPlayer and 4oD but rarely with anything else. Ok, we're lucky to have it at all; there are parts of Herefordshire/Worcestershire, I believe, where dial-up is still the only option.

But there's so much promise out there now. Since the summer I've become aware of at least two websites other than The Auteurs that offer quality films that are out of the ordinary to view online. There's Babelgum which has a film and four other channels (including an Our Earth one that's currently covering the Copenhagen summit).

Babelgum recently featured Sally Potter's new film Rage, the first to be released simultaneously in the cinema, on DVD, online and for mobile phone download. Rage can be viewed on Babelgum here.

Now comes a new, fully licensed and legal video on demand site that specialises in independent films - Lars Von Trier, Roman Polanski and Claude Chabrol among less familiar names - that would otherwise only reach a tiny specialist cinema audience. All these point to radical changes in the way films are being distributed.

Explore and, if you get on better than I did, have a nibble.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Arriving soon near you

Our flyer - giving the merest hint of what Borderlines 2010 will deliver...

The flyer can be downloaded from Issuu here

Saturday 17 October 2009

Random collisions at the LFF

People – disparate, distracted, in London, watching, engaged, rapt (even if what they're looking at has something of the overstatement of a Second Coming) – the new trailer for the London Film Festival touts the PR message that it's the public not the industry that figures in this event. Certainly the audiences have turned out in force; many, if not most of the screenings this week, daytime and evening, have been fully booked. There's congestion on the escalators in the multiscreen Vue even if the viewing spaces in the festival's new West End venue are smaller than in previous years.

And on Thursday evening the LFF hosts London Moves Me, a free outdoor screening of, capital-related transport films from the BFI National and London Screen Archives in Trafalgar Square.

For me, two and a half days into viewing the experience has been one of coincidences, filmic rather than social encounters, though I did glimpse the back of Colin Firth's head while queuing to collect tickets. It started with a couple of previews a few weeks ago. First Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers in which a gang of ostensibly elderly delinquents.... yes, hump trash and engage in various other trashing scenarios, repetitively, on low-grade video footage. Shortly after I saw Burrowing, a beautifully crafted Swedish film in which four characters living in the same suburban community (different ages and degrees of affluence) follow trajectories that set them outside society. Anti-social tendencies

Yesterday I viewed four movies: The Road, Ivul, Today's Special, and Dogtooth. And the following themes recurred in two or more of them: dystopias, imploding families with a highlight on father/son relationships, incest, survivalism, too little or too much food, falling tree imagery and crows.

The Road, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, is truly terrifying, the logical and unpalatable outcome of the message of The Age of Stupid, far more powerful in terms of film-making. A father and son battle their way through an unrelenting and monotone landscape at the world's end.

The best film I've seen so far has been Dogtooth, a film from Greece, a remarkable achievement. It's a parable about family life and the future of the family that manages to be bright, funny and natural on the one hand and darkly satirical on the other. Using a combination of fences and Pavlovian training, the mother and father of an anonymous family isolate their grown-up children from the world in what is effectively an affluent prison. Wielding short, sharp shocks, the film comes across as fresh, provocative and surreal. It's quite rare - and very encouraging - to come across a film that is not just underivative but genuinely original.

Thursday 24 September 2009

Winterbottom's The Shock Doctrine: Slashing Through Cut Throat Capitalism

More from Borderlines Director, David Gillam, at the San Sebastian Film Festival:

Michael Winterbottom's new documentary The Shock Doctrine does exactly what it says on the tin - galloping through Naomi Klein's influential book in 75 minutes is quite a feat.

Klein's basic idea that crises provide the opportunity to introduce economic policies that would otherwise be unpopular is well documented through the usual suspects: Milton Friedman, Pinochet's Chile, Thatcher, Reagan, Yeltsin's Russia through to cut throat capitalism's current crisis.

An important film if you want to know why the world is in such a mess...

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Enigmatic new Jarmusch film - Spanish road movie or mind trip?

Fresh bulletin from David Gillam in San Sebastian:

Jim Jarmusch's The Limits of Control provided a note of entertainment to a diet of murder and madness. A black samurai crosses Spain meeting a stellar cast of mysterious strangers for bizarre, cryptic conversations about cinema, art, perception. John Hurt, Tilda Swinton in a ridiculous white wig, Gael García Bernal parade by till a final showdown with Bill Murray, one of the men in black running a secret prison in Spain.

Playful, funny, certainly the most acute, cinematic reponse to the state of the world.

Monday 21 September 2009

Post-haste from San Sebastian

Borderlines director David Gillam has sent news (via multiple texts) about what he's been viewing during the opening weekend of the 57th San Sebastian International Film Festival, the largest of its kind in Spain and one of the major European film festivals. Look out for his recommendations below. Who knows, some of them might be screening at Borderlines 2010...

The first day at San Sebastian Film Festival was a bit of a damp squib. I didn't get to meet Quentin Tarantino or Brad Pitt who were in town for the Inglourious Basterds premiere. Worse still, Atom Egoyan's opener Chloe was really dire, unbelievable with a terrible pat ending. Fernando Trueba's The Dancer and the Thief was even worse, a real mess despite the best efforts of the wonderful Ricardo Darín.

Best of the day was definitely Whatever Works, Woody Allen's latest. In many ways a comic panto with stock characters, nevertheless it works, funny throughout with great one-liners, s'amuse bien.

Day 2: Just occasionally I see a film that reaffirms my belief in the ability of the cinema to create such empathy for a character that it changes the way we see the world. Precious is such a film. Precious is a 200lb, illiterate 16 year old , pregnant for the second time by her father. From such an unrelentingly grim start comes a wonderfully positive film, full of life and imagination.
N.B. Precious has just won the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, often a good indicator of future Oscar success.

Day 3: Ozon's latest The Refuge is very fine, beautifully shot. Every scene leads subtly to a 'surprise' ending that for once is credible and thought-provoking. The Refuge is the story of Maggie who survives when her boyfriend o-d's. Pregnant, she learns to be 'alone' through her relationship with her boyfriend's gay brother.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Call for Hereford 350! International Day of Action on Climate Change

On Saturday 24th October 2009 thousands of events are taking place around the world, involving many millions of people…

From New Delhi to San Francisco, from Moscow to Amsterdam, from Songyuan City to Istanbul, people who see the urgency of the global climate situation are joining together to let those in power know that we want change.

Different towns and cities around the world are responding to the call for action in different ways, all featuring the number 350. It is an important number: 350 refers to the safe upper limit of Carbon Dioxide (Co2) in the earth’s atmosphere.

Here in Hereford, we are planning an event involving the whole city: 350 is the number of organisations, communities, businesses, firms, shops, factories, schools, churches, colleges, groups from all around the area that will come together to share in a celebration of human creativity and potential. Humanity has got itself out of some difficult situations… climate change is perhaps our biggest challenge yet!

Come and join in, learn about the possibilities and celebrate our potential to change. Within this crisis are opportunities. Ecological sustainability and social justice are achievable with the application of human creativity – and we already have ideas, projects, technologies and developments that show what can be done.

Get involved in Hereford 350! in whichever way best suits you or the organisation you represent…
For example you could…
  • Come and demonstrate an idea or technology that you or your company are developing
  • Bring along a stall letting us know how your organisation is dealing with making carbon reductions
  • Come and offer a workshop or discussion group about an area of interest to you
  • Come and set up an art display of work produced by your college, community or school
  • Bring along a stall advertising your green company or product
  • Bring along a piece of theatre, dance or display…
The possibilities are endless!

We will provide the space, the organisation, children’s activities and maybe even lunch! And, of course, the opportunity for you to network and create personal and community links with others from around the region.

By joining the 350 action on a world wide scale we are sending a clear message to our politicians: we are ready to change, and we are celebrating our ability to change.

At the Copenhagen Climate Conference this December we need these politicians to make even bigger changes: we need them to ensure that an agreement is reached on radical and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Only this way will we limit global warming and stop climate change.

If you would like to join in, please let us know!

Contact: Richard Priestley and the Hereford 350 team.
See our blog or e-mail or phone us c/o Bulmer Foundation 01432 294112 or write
c/o The Bulmer Foundation,
Cider Mills,
Plough Lane,
HR4 0LE.

See the website for more information about this international day of action.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

British Cinema Festival Hay-on-Wye coming up!

It's a weekend packed with some of the most potent and controversial films (classic and contemporary) this country has produced when The Screen At Hay's first Festival of British Cinema launches this Friday, 4 September.

Derek Jarman's Caravaggio and Michael Powell's disturbing Peeping Tom receive an airing alongside late night screenings of The Wicker Man and Performance. Among other rarities, The Gigolos (2006) starring Susannah York, Sian Phillips and Anna Massey.

Two nunsMeanwhile on Saturday, the Festival's patron Francine Stock hosts a series of talks including Q&As with Duane Hopkins (Better Things) and Mike Hodges, director of Get Carter. Jan Dunne, whose Ruby Blue drew an enthusiastic crowd at Borderlines 2008, will be present with her new film The Calling - about a young graduate who joins a closed Benedictine order - on Sunday 6.

A key component of the festival is an exploration of Welsh and Borders life and culture, past and present through talks, documentaries and local archival film. And our own Bill Laws introduces Fieldwork - Farming Memories from the 20th Century.

For the full programme visit the Festival of British Cinema website. Online bookings via the Hay Festival Box Office. Don't delay, spaces at the 2 screening venues, Hay Parish Hall and the Salem Chapel, are limited!

Monday 31 August 2009

10:10 Everybody's at it

In London tomorrow Tuesday 1 September? Head down to the Tate Modern, 4-7pm, for the latest Age of Stupid initiative.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Summer in the Cinema/Cinema in the Summer

What better way to celebrate the dregs of a summer that never quite made it than a lingering hymn to outdoor cinema, I thought. There's no pleasure quite like it - though my experiences are almost exclusively bound up with being abroad and in holiday mode. It's something to do with being caught up with what's up there on the screen while remaining aware of your surroundings at the same time, light fading, cricket noises, smells, pulses of hot air. And like Flicks in the Sticks there's always an interval for refreshments. Just love it, I'll go see anything, anything at all.

So here's Cine-Paris, a rooftop summer cinema in the centre of Athens (ramparts of the Acropolis just over the wall). More pics on our Flickr stream.

Nearer to home, Garway Flicks promoter, Magaret Oke recalls one memorable August screening of Shrek on Garway Common at the close of the village fete. The film was projected on the side of a lorry with seating on straw bales. "Wonderful atmosphere" unlikely to be repeated because of health and safety and the vagaries of the weather.

Regular outdoor screenings in this country include the Film4 Summer Screen events July/August at Somerset House. Plus this very Bank Holiday weekend, the Sunset Screenings on Grantchester Meadows in Cambridge, a prelude to the Cambridge Film Festival towards the end of September, Mamma Mia! on Saturday 30th and on Sunday 31, intriguingly, Big River Man starring endurance swimmer, Martin Strel, who'll be present (swimming?).

A long way to go, though my obsession has led me to the far reaches of the Open Air Cinema Blog where the possibilities are seemingly limitless...

Catch up with the Climate Camp!

You can keep up with what's happening via tweets and pictures at the Climate Camp in London at

The police demanded to know the location of the Camp for Climate Action 2009 - this is their response. Images by kind permission of: Amy Scaife, Amelia Gregory, Mike Russell and Mike Langridge at

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Festival Feedback courtesy of Wordle

Using the slowest of summer months to embrace all that new technology has to offer, here is the audience feedback 'cloud' that I generated using Wordle and good fun it was too. Just fed in the text from our audience questionnaires, most frequently occurring words come out BIG and so on down. So if you click on the thumbnail to access a larger image and scrutinise carefully you'll find the more critical bits...
Wordle: Borderlines Film Festival 2009 Audience Feedback
image by

Apologies in advance if the larger image doesn't display for you. It will be because your browser is not set to cope with the Java applet that generates the image. My own computer was too old to handle it so had to borrow another!

Monday 3 August 2009

Man on Wire plus extras on BBC iPlayer this week

Following its screening on BBC2 on Sunday 2 August this fantastic documentary is available to view this week on BBC iPlayer here. Also available via this link: Mark Kermode/Culture Show interview of the charismatic Philippe Petit, Petit's Desert Island Discs and an R4 Today: Life on the Line - feature about Man on Wire. All highly recommended - especially if August torpor has got to you.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Simon Nicholls, The Courtyard's Head Projectionist, cautions on demystifying the dream factory by entering the hot, sweaty din that is... the projection box. Read all about it in Notes from the Projection Room, his first post for The Courtyard's recently launched blog.

Our long overdue thanks to Simon for doing such a grand job during Borderlines. He's absolutely right when he says, "The projectionist’s job is one where the better you are at it the less you get noticed". We didn't notice a thing...

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Dates for Borderlines 2010 confirmed

The next festival will take place from Friday 26 February - Sunday 14 March, earlier than ever, brrrr!

Without the luxury of the roof of a central office over their heads, the entire Borderlines team got straight down, today, to the serious business of planning another major rural film festival.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Anvil (the band) make it to Cannes

It appears that films can engender happy endings even while eschewing them. On the back of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil the hapless (till now) heavy metal band have been performing the live Anvil Experience to happy cinema audiences across the US. And acquiring some famous fans.

For more, see this Guardian report from Cannes.

Despite the petitions, it doesn't look as though they're playing Glastonbury however...

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Borderlines at Hay... and more films

Philippe Petit in Man on WireFor those of you who missed the phenomenal Oscar AND BAFTA-winning documentary Man on Wire, catch it at the forthcoming Hay Festival on Friday 29 May. A Borderlines-branded event, it's preceded by a discussion featuring filmmakers James Marsh and Simon Chinn in conversation with Sarfraz Manzoor.

Clint Eastwood in Gran TorinoMeanwhile there's plenty on offer at our partner venues. Flicks in the Sticks is extending its usual season until the end of May to include a Slumdog Millionaire run. And coming soon to The Courtyard, Ludlow Assembly Rooms and The Regal, Clint Eastwood's prickly exploration of racism and ageing, Gran Torino.

Sunday 3 May 2009

Official favourites

According to box office figures, the film that drew the largest attendances at Borderlines 2009 was The Age of Stupid, seen by a staggering total of 1,186 people at five different festival locations.

Sell-out screenings for The Reader made it the second most popular film overall. If you missed it, catch The Courtyard's second run from late May. There's another chance to catch Milk too. Other films that drew big crowds were Revolutionary Road, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, A Bunch of Amateurs, North Face and, among the world cinema screenings, Lemon Tree and El Nido Vacío.

Herefordshire schoolchildren filming on the farmHowever, in terms of largest average audience, the most popular screening was not a commercial film at all. It was Food & Farming in South Herefordshire, Catcher Media's engaging collaboration with primary schoolchildren and local farmers. Further showings will take place on Thursday 7 May at Garway Village Hall (call 01600 750461) and on Friday 15 May at Much Birch Community Hall (call 01981 541274).

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Gone but not forgotten

The seventh Borderlines Film Festival is well and truly over but in case you're wondering, like the subject line of a plaintive e-mail from one of our Board Members, 'What do I do now?' we can bring you some small comfort.

The good news is that there's not quite so long to wait till Borderlines comes round again. The Courtyard dates for the next film festival are Monday 1 March through to Sunday 14 March 2010, several weeks earlier than normal.

Naomi Vera-Sanso in front of Borderlines bannerSumming up, Festival Producer Naomi Vera-Sanso said ticket sales had risen despite the economic down turn. "This year's Festival has been a great success and we are delighted that Borderlines is managing to reach new audiences each year."

Huge thanks to our funders, our local sponsors and our partner venues without which the festival would simply not happen. And, above all, to you, our audiences, who give the event its buzz. We're still processing the questionnaires many of you filled in but are always happy to receive your feedback and suggestions.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Climate Change and Sustainability Day clips and info

A packed house, informative speakers and an informed audience made for a stimulating Climate Change and Sustainability Day on Friday 27 March.

It opened with a pledge from Councillor John Jarvis to set up a screening of The Age of Stupid for Herefordshire Council in its entirety. “You can't change your life if you can't change your thinking. We have to get the message (about climate change) across to the people who manage the budgets,” he said.

Among other green measures, county library services are to make energy monitors and intelligent plugs available for loan while many Herefordshire schools have now achieved their green flag as part of the eco-schools award scheme.

The Age of Stupid (which has had a phenomenal run of five consecutive weeks at the Odeon West End) will be available for independent screenings after its official launch date on May 22. Information about purchasing a license (on a sliding scale according to the size and nature of screenings) can be obtained from the Indie Screenings website from May 1.

Listen to Mark Lynas introduce The Age of Stupid.

And, from the Q&A after the screening, a proposal for a 'War Bond' type scheme for renewables was greeted with much enthusiasm by the audience.

A lively session on Alternative Sources of Energy featured presentations by Richard Priestley on the breakthrough technology of concentrating solar power, Alice Goldstone of Talybont Energy on hydropower and how Talybont is working steadily towards carbon neutrality and Jon Hallé of sharenergy and Energy4All who urged any audience members inerested in setting up or participating in renewable energy co-ops to contact him via the sharenergy website.

Richard was prompted by the potentially large demand from audience members to set up a new course of evening classes Global Problems : Global Solutions at The Barrels pub in Hereford. Details in the comment attached to this post or contact Richard by e-mail or on 01432 358104.

Re local hydropower, we've been contacted by Stephen Ainsleigh Rice of the Herefordshire Hydro Group(see comment attached to this post for more information).

Summing up the energy debate, environmental broadcaster Robert Lamb said that there had been some terrific insights but added a note of caution, "As we've seen from the film this morning, as science shows, we can't wait for attitudinal change. Governments have a huge role to play; at the end of the day they regulate things. They did something about acid rain in the US, governments got involved, ODS (ozone-depleted substances) were made illegal. We have to press governments to deliver. Where things are happening in Germany, Denmark, Spain it's where governments have intervened. We have to recognise that we're a middle-class outfit and that 95% of the people in the UK would not find it particularly shameful to travel on EasyJet."

Following on, here's Joss Garman of Greenpeace and Plane Stupid spelling out why 2 degrees are quite so significant.

Joss's full PowerPoint presentation will soon be available for download.

The session was billed as How Far Do We Go? Speaking after Joss, Trish Marsh, Sustainability Manager for Herefordshire Council argued for renaming it How Near Should We Stay?


Sunday 5 April 2009

Anvil!, or Na na nana na nana na, thumb tacks!

It's testament to the power of music that a band like Anvil (specifically founding members Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner) has stuck together through thick and thin. Relationships may have been strained at times, but there's no better healer of mental or physical wounds (with the possible exception of time) than music.

Now, it's hard to talk about the film without mentioning This is Spinal Tap, so I'll get that out the way. The similarities (references?) between the two films are striking. There's an early scene where the cover of every album the band has made is shown, along with titles. At one point, Kudlow and Reiner talk about the first song they wrote together, and even give an inpromptu performance. Their tour manager is also the girlfriend of one of the band members. There's a visit to Stonehenge, and a finale in Japan. Robb Reiner even shares the same name of the director of Spinal Tap (plus an extra 'b')! The crucial difference is, right from the off, you know this is real. And maybe the reason there are so many similarities is because Spinal Tap was more accurate than first assumed at presenting the experience of being in a metal band. If anything, Anvil! The Story of Anvil fleshes out these comedic fall guys into rich characters, and becomes an infinitely more human experience. It's funny in parts, naturally, but there's more to it than that. This is a film about friendship, faith, love and never giving up in what you believe in, despite how old you are, and despite how your older sister might feel. Surely that appeals to everyone?

Like Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, minus all the pretension, the film works simply because it takes that most indomitable thing on Earth, the human spirit, and shows off what it can do. There are laughs along the way, but also tears, and you really start to feel for the guys when continue playing shows for venues that can hold 10,000, but less than 200 show up. Anvil haven't seen the success they desire, or even deserve, but they keep journeying on regardless, keeping an eye open for the next opportunity to make it big. And maybe, just maybe, this film might finally be the key to open that gate.

A hell of a film, and a hell of a closer to this year's festival. It's been a blast!

Saturday 4 April 2009

Two thumbs!

As I flashed my ticket for Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson to the attendant and entered the auditorium, I was determined. Regardless of how much scrabbling around I had to do, nothing would stand in my way. My heart was full of joy. Come hell or high water, I was sitting on the balcony. Take THAT conformist members of society! You, who settle for sitting in the dank pit at the bottom of this magnificent structure, you can give me as many dirty looks as you like, but I'll simply laugh them away, casting off the dull shackles of self-consciousness, yelling at the top of my voice "LOOK AT ME!" I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger... a Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident.

So, anyway, I couldn't find the door upstairs. So I considered my mission a glorious failure, and sat back down.

In two minutes, I was back on my feet again. A goatee'd gentleman, seeming to be doing his utmost to fit the cliche of 'Aging Hipster' walked up to me and proclaimed his congratulations.
"That's all very well," I said, "but what, may I ask, is the occasion?"
"You're sitting in my seat," he replied.
I looked around. There were roughly seven people in the theater, including us. I stared back blankly at the man and the shaven lemur hanging off his right arm, and quickly considered the outcome of this scenario of I were to say "No." I could probably take him in a fight, I thought, before noticing the oh-so-slightly menacing boots he was wearing. There was no part of my body that survive an impact created either of those things. And even if he wasn't a kicking person, he could still chase me outside, chucking roll-up cigarettes, Moleskine notebooks and copies of the Guardian at me.
I conceded. A good ninja always knows when to retreat. And then often just poisons his enemies late at night, but that would have to wait for another time. After the film was finished.

And after I'd had some dinner.

Oh, and the film was okay. It covered just about every aspect of Hunter S. Thompson's life and got interviews with all the right people (save Richard Nixon, but he's dead, so I'll let that slide), but is completely uncritical of the man, even claiming his suicide (spoiler!) as some sort of heroic act.
My question, however, is this: does this film serve any purpose? As a journalist, you could argue that Thompson always led his life in full view, so surely the best way to understand the man and learn more about him is to simply read his work? Indeed, the only truly entertaining parts of the film (with the grand exception of his funeral) were the quotes from Hunter himself, as read by Johnny Depp. Director Alex Gibney clearly has a talent for making confrontational documentaries (i.e. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side), but doesn't seem to have anything to add to what is more or less a standard biography.

Still, the music was nice.

Your favourite film?

We're into the final weekend of Borderlines 2009. The box office figures tell us one thing - The Reader sold the most tickets to date - and fairly predictable it is too. But did you have a clear favourite? A film that stood out for you above all others. That gave you the most pain or pleasure. Or simply entertained you and whiled away a few hours...

We'd love to hear about it. You can let us know by leaving a comment. If you don't already have a Google or a Blogger account you'll be prompted to register using your e-mail address (not displayed), a user name of your choice and a password.

Thursday 2 April 2009

Change of venue for Friday's screening of Garage

The screening of Garage (18) on Friday 3 April, scheduled for 7.30pm at Fownhope, will now take place at Woolhope Village Hall at 7.40pm. For enquiries, call 01432 860717.

The film stars the hugely popular Irish comedian Pat Shortt in a finely-tuned portrayal of a small-town guy caught up in a tragi-comic situation.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

99 minutes of near-perfection

A warning: A Man Escaped is not a film for the impatient. It's slow, lacking in dialogue, unbearably tense and ends abruptly.

And it's utterly fantastic.

As Kaz has commented on, it's refreshing to see that the smaller films and the pictures from overseas are the ones gathering the larger audiences. A Man Escaped was no exception, the studio full to the brim, exposing the slight shortcomings of the seating (to the two people directly in front of me, whom I accidentally poked in the back, I apologise). It also made a nice change to briefly discuss the film with members of the audience afterward, all of whom enjoyed the film and even seemed to understand the director's intentions. This is the polar opposite of every experience I've had with a multiplex cinema (the sole exception being...sigh...Mamma Mia), so maybe it's time people considered a trip to the theatre to get their next motion picture fix? It doesn't improve things that you can count the number of screens at Hereford's Odeon on one finger.

So, back to the film, which I'm immediately listing as a must-see to anyone with intentions to make their own feature (regardless of professional level) or any film student for that matter. Not only does the film represent how much can be done with a relatively slim plot, but it also represents how much can be done with a relatively slim budget. The technical ability director Robert Bresson displays is nothing short of inspiring.

And same can be said for the plot. Throughout his incarceration, the protagonist never backs down, never gives up, always quietly toiling away at his escape plan. It may well be the only thing keeping him sane. Naturally, I won't give away whether he succeeds or fails. At the end of it all, it isn't very important. What matters is the journey to that particular conclusion. All quite profound, and all very human.

The prison-drama genre doesn't get many installments these days, probably because there's only so many paths for the plot to follow. The Escapist is a recent (and British) example of how things can be done differently but, ultimately, isn't as satisfying as A Man Escaped. But how does Bresson's film measure to that sacred cow of the prison drama genre: The Shawshank Redemption? It can't be better, surely?

It's damn close, I'll tell you that much.

A Glass Of Watered Down Milk

Howdy folks, Jolene here again, this time with a spoiler free review of Milk.

On arriving to see Milk I was in two minds about what to expect and upon leaving I realise that the 2 hour run time still hasn't been enough for me to coherently organise my thoughts.

Some hours have passed since I left The Courtyard, and yet, here I sit, still slightly puzzled about whether or not the film was a success. On the one hand the story is compelling, the performances outstanding (though in my opinion it is relative newcomer Emile Hirsch, not Sean Penn who is the best of the bunch) and the message undeniably important. However, when one watches Milk as a piece of narative cinema, I am afraid to say that it just doesn't work.

Throughout the first hour of the film I found myself feeling virtually abandoned by both script writer and director alike. The narrative rockets along at break neck speed, so much so that in the space of the opening 10 minutes, Harvey has already met his lover, opened a shop and decided to go into politics. The emphasis seems to be upon setting up his political career and ideals as an early plot hook, a way of convincing us to love the character because of what he stands for, but it's done so at the expense of convincing us to love him for who he is. However much one may naturally sympathise with Milk the idea, this disregard of characterisation so early in the film leaves very little room for any empathy with Milk the man. Rather my sympathy lies with anybody unfortunate enough to choose these early scenes for a bathroom break, blink before the first 40 minutes and you are in danger of missing half of Milk's career.

However, it's not just the narrative that has problems, the visual style too seems intent upon disturbing any sort of connection you may feel with the film, it's characters, or it's story. I am thinking in particular of the puzzling choice to splice in historical footage from the real campaign. The effect is jarring to say the least, just as one begins to settle down into the accepted artifice of a Hollywood film, you are suddenly confronted with grainy, flickering footage of real events, yanking you out of the story and reminding you quite forcefully that you are in a cinema, watching a film. It is an effect which does not just break the fourth wall, it kicks it down and batters you to death with the bricks.

Which is a shame considering that once the first awkward hour is out of the way, the second half of the film is really rather good. It features some beautiful cinematography and, (an hour too late mind) finally gives you some insight into the nature of Harvey Milk himself. However, it still suffers from the schizophrenic vibe that haunts the first half, desperately asking us to believe in Penn as Milk whilst simultaneously reminding us that he isn't. This is not helped by the disjointed way the film is narrated, one forgets that this is all a reading of Milk's own words only to be reminded again at seemingly random intervals, as and when the director chooses to throw us forward in time.

I don't mean to sound overly negative, as there were parts of the film which were incredibly enjoyable, but I cannot help but feel that Milk is something of a wasted opportunity. With the seeming reams of historical footage (arguably the most interesting part of the film) one gets the impression that, with the compelling story of Harvey himself, this could have been an outstanding documentary. Instead, Milk is a rather confused fiction, never quite engaging the audience with its characters, or giving enough context to make it truly arresting. Watching it left me hungry to find out more, something which a biopic really ought not to do.

I won't argue that Harvey Milk's story isn't one worth telling, I just think it's one worth telling well.

It's being so cheerful keeps us going.........

I'm too easy to please. Plonk me in a darkened cinema and I'm anybody's. I know this because I usually come out of a film full of whatever emotions the director intended, to be greeted by fellow moviegoers looking earnest, disengaged and saying things like 'well, that could have done with an edit'. It happened with Milk, which I thought was just right at 2hrs 20mins. Others were firmly in the 90mins camp. I'll compromise on 2hrs - but no less.

, being a straight-forward biog, was unsurprisingly predictable, and rightly so as surprises in the story line would require the rewriting of history. But what about predictability in pure fiction? Should we expect an element of surprise? Or is the comfort and security of a well worn formula sufficient to keep us happy?

A Bunch of Amateurs is a broad comedy with fabulous over acting from Imelda Staunton and Derek Jacobi and under acting (or not much acting at all) from Burt Reynolds, who happily sends himself up a treat. The audience liked it, as did I. But ten minutes in, the entire narrative structure of the film would have been obvious to an eight year old. Prima Donna star, muddy field, clash of cultures, jealousy, tantrums, walk outs, it's off, it's on, it's a triumph! And, right on cue, the heartwarming reconciliation of BR with estranged daughter. It was charming, professional, and with an ambition to entertain. But, is this enough?

El Nido Vacio (The Empty Nest) had what might have been a predictable plot (middle aged male writer with block has mid-life crisis over children leaving home and daughter becoming sexually active). A wonderfully nuanced performance from Oscar Martinez ensured that even the (apparently) predictable developments raised smiles of recognition from the parents in the audience of a certain age. There were, in retrospect, some clues that all was not as it seemed, but the final twist was completely unexpected. It was imaginative and insightful, and I suppose that if you had read Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse in the last couple of weeks you might have seen it coming. But I hadn't and I didn't. I won't reveal the ending, so as this was the only scheduled UK showing (shame!), you may never know (but try MovieMail later in the year).

Comedy is at its best when you don't see it coming. Deliberate and laboured quirkiness can be tiresome, but A Bunch of Amateurs had no quirk at all. I came out of both films with a smile on my face, but, as I say, I'm easy to please............

Pete Postlethwaite Introduces Age of Stupid at Ludlow

Pete Postlethwaite introduced the sell-out screening at Ludlow last night and bravely came back for a Q&A at the end. Despite saying that Pete wouldn't handle questions on the science or the politics, the audience was so fired up by the film that moderator David Gillam had a hard job keeping them in check.

It's a remarkably effective movie, and I say that from a scientific background with a healthy scepticism for the sort of fundamentalism that the environmental movement seems to be descending into. Franny Armstrong has done a great job using half a dozen, apparently unrelated stories to give several views of the situation - much more effective that a sustained polemic (Michael Moore gives me a headache). Everyone ought to see it.

But it would be good to see more focus on the possibilities and less on the guilt trip. Remember the '60s and the Silent Spring? The '70s and acid rain? The '80s and the hole in the ionosphere? We beat the first two and are well on the way to nailing the third. Did someone say 'Yes we can!'

Tuesday 31 March 2009

What alchoholics refer to as 'A moment of clarity'

Hi everyone. It's Kaz again.

As promised, here is the Hereford College of Art YouTube page. Have fun and please comment on the videos. My page is posted beneath.

Before I go on, I would like to share with you a realisation I had upon sitting down in the Studio theater of The Courtyard today. And that realisation, silly as it may seem, was that Borderlines Film Festival is, and always will be, an independent film festival...

Maybe this isn't the most difficult of things to realise, but I really had not thought of it that way. I always just thought of it as a small festival, that only ever showed 2 or 3 films I'd heard of. I only ever go to one of its venues, and the tag line for the festival is 'The UK's largest rural film festival,' which hardly conjures images of grandeur. But the festival is shown over 28 cinemas. I'd never even thought of that before.

When I turned up to see The Wrestler yesterday, I was not surprised to see that the theater was half empty. I mean, we're in Hereford. When I went to see The Dark Knight there were only 15 people in the cinema and that was one of the biggest films of 2008. But today it struck me. I walked in to the theater expecting an even quieter experience as I watched the charming and witty film Lemon Tree. Unsurprisingly when I walked in, I was confronted with no mere than a handful of patrons, sat quietly waiting for the film to start. I was shocked enough when a couple seated themselves next to me, but safe in the knowledge I would be able to move to a more open space in the auditorium (I like to use both arm rests), I sat patiently waiting for the lights to go down so that I could embrace another seat without fear of being asked to move. No luck. Within 3 minutes the theater was full. Not one seat was left unoccupied and shear human warmth began to almost illuminate the room. It was at this exact moment I had my moment of clarity. This was an independent film, and this is what people wanted to see. And it made me proud to be there. People had filled a room, not because of a shiny poster, or a big Hollywood actor, or even a 1080i trailer on iTunes (standard definition only I'm sad to say). But they had come here to see a Palestinian independent film because it's not the usual Hollywood throw away that you can see anywhere. The had come to see it because without the Borderlines Film Festival, they would probably never have had the chance. And being an independent film maker myself, I'm proud to know that there is such a festival in my local area, and I'm proud to have had the chance to show my work there.

Aaaaanyway. I feel like I've been talking for far to long. And I haven't even talked about the film I went to see. Which was brilliant by the way. And very, very funny. It's not the most wide spread entertainment in the world but I happen to be a fan of what little Palestinian cinema I have seen and I am also an advocate of Palestinian stand up comedy. So to me it made a perfect coupling. And the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it as well.

The director of the film, Eran Riklis, said, when asked if the film was political, that he 'didn't believe in the term and found it out dated.' and I am inclined to disagree. Yes, everything has a political opinion inside it somewhere but some more than others. I think what he has done with Lemon Tree, and what Borderlines has done by bringing it to Hereford has done more to raise an interest in the Palestine/Israel conflict than most news reports will, because it gives the audience people with stories, not just politics and death tolls, and that is what makes people care.

p.s From the other side of the fence, as it were, (you'll get the joke if you've seen the film, or if you like pseudo-satirical puns about political relations in the middle east) this is an interesting film from student film makers in Israel, called Smile.

Thanks again for reading, and keep watching films at the festival.

Change to Box Office no. for Hay

For reservations for Hunger, screening at Hay on Friday 3 April, call 01497 831690 instead of the telephone number listed in the brochure, on the Venues page of our website or the Screen at Hay website.

Monday 30 March 2009

The Wrestler

Hi Everyone.

I'm Kaz, and I'm a student on The Hereford College of Arts and I have been asked to blog for the Borderlines Film festival.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone there at The Courtyard, and everyone running Borderlines Film Festival for allowing myself and my colleagues to show our work in the form of the Small Stories, Big Ideas showcase. And let me tell you, it sure is weird seeing your work up on a big screen for the first time. Especially when you have to talk about it afterwards in front of a room full of strangers. That aside, I think the whole thing was a success, I hope you enjoyed it if you saw it then I'd love to hear any feedback, just comment below, and if you didn't see it then the college is soon to be setting up a YouTube page where you will be able to view most of the films featured. I'll post the address next blog. Also, if anyone can tell me what blog stands for, please leave a comment.

Anyways. This being a film festival blog and all, I figure that I should be talking about the films. So that's what I'll do. Today, I saw my first film of the festival, The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke. Ever since first seeing the trailers for this film, I've been Intrigued, with a healthy dose of scepticism. The film truly looked to be an personal, gritty, and heart breaking account of one mans struggle against the real world, coupled with blissfully epic nostalgia and a lust for professional American wrestling action, without being as bad as Home Boy... and I was not disappointed. The Wrestler, exquisitely directed by Darren Aronofsky, must surely be one of the highlights of the festival. I don't want to speak to soon, but I genuinely cant see many films topping it. And don't let the title trick you. This isn't just some action flick for fans of WWF's heyday. This film gives one of the most human performances i have seen committed to celluloid (and I watched Last Resort twice, if you haven't seen it, check it out, its directed by Pawel Pawlikowski) and really explores the ideas of what people really want to a new level. Even so far as to start exploring what they need.

Discard your doubts about enjoying a wrestling flick, and especially discard your doubts about not being able to take it seriously. This is a film anyone can love, from the elderly couple sat to my left, right through to the business bankers sat behind me, not one person in the room failed to laugh, and cry, in the right places. And I can guarantee you won't either.

Thanks again everyone, and hopefully I'll post more soon.

Kaz Szostak

Feeling the festival vibe

Adieu, my name is Jolene Archer, first year film maker over at Hereford College of Arts, fresh back from my first day of soaking up the Borderlines vibe like some strange blogging sponge. Since I've spent most of today rocketting back and forth between screenings I thought I'd post a little about the festival itself.

The atmosphere at Borderlines is surreal, in the best possible way. Mooching about the lobby of The Courtyard theatre, one feels a slight pang of resonance for the great wildlife film makers, who after patiently waiting for weeks on end finally get thier money shot - when one recognises the eager look of a fellow film buff, the anxious twist of ticket in hand, the awkward avoidance of eye contact when one realises they've entered the wrong screen - these moments are the snow leopards of Attenborough films, although thankfully, film goers are not near extinction, and have only rarely been known to maul.

I'm an early bird, so it is in my nature to arrive at a screening with enough time to politely hassle the staff as to the time doors will be opened. This habit of mine meant that I was one of the first to enter the screening of Badlands this afternoon. As I settle myself into my seat, more people start to enter and watching my fellow movie-goers arrive is something to behold. Once the doors are opened a flood of people emerge, presumably from some portal or pre-film panic room, as it is impossible for me to recall seeing half of them in my twenty minute wait in the lobby before hand. Yet, here they are all tentatively creeping into the screen, peering around the corners of doors with an air of apprehension which I suspect to be aided by the ominous red glow of the pre-film screen.

Once we are seated, the variety of the audience is interesting to note. Couples, singles, and families, young and old, all of us united by a love of cinema, and the universal need to tread on at least one other person's feet before we reach our designated seat - the polite mutterings of 'ever so sorry!' the well known cry of the rarely spotted Hereford Cinephile. For a few moments all of us are engaged in our own pre-film entertainment, magazines of all kinds are drawn out of handbags, backpacks, briefcases and flicked through with idle impatients - the diversity of the crowd reflected in their choice of reading material, of pre-trailer snacks.

From my lofty perch I spy what appears to be a copy of Sight and Sound magazine in the hands of a young woman, whilst further down somebody else is diligently scanning a text book (I commend your work ethic, whomever you were!). From werthers originals to walkers crisps, everyone's bought their own rations to keep them going - I begin to notice something which smells suspiciously like mint chocolate, but before I can investigate further the lights dim and the crowd is quite. Curtain up, roll film.


Hi there

Finally had some semblance of time today to make it to The Courtyard to support the work of my students. Thanks again to the folks at the festival for providing us here at Media Arts at Hereford College of Arts with a window to show some of our work.

The screening of work by our Film and Video students seemed to be well received and I was reminded of the the diversity of styles, tones and subject matter that my students had produced.

The students are currently immersed in their latest studio projects, which will be both drama and documentary. It would be good to get this work seen publically soon too. Getting the work out there is always exciting.


Franny Armstrong addresses Borderlines Age of Stupid viewers

Watch the personal message that The Age of Stupid director Franny Armstrong has sent through to Borderlines audiences.

The Not Stupid campaign was due to launch on April 1 but this has been deferrred. We'll keep you posted.

There are still a few chances to catch The Age of Stupid if you haven't already seen it:
Mon 30 11.15am / Tue 31 4.15pm (followed at 5.45pm by discussion hosted by Transition Hereford) / Wed 1 April 11.30am - The Courtyard Hereford
Tue 31 March 7.30pm (SOLD OUT) / Wed 1 April 7.30pm - Ludlow Assembly Rooms
Thur 2 April 7.30pm (with discussion hosted by Transition Presteigne to follow) - Presteigne Assembly Rooms

Love Letters and Passion - exclusive podcasts

Poster for NightmailGraeme Hobbs of MovieMail has put together two podcasts specially for our website.

The first is on the wonderfully inventive GPO films of the 193
0s, Love Letters and Live Wires, screening at The Courtyard on TODAY at 4.15pm.

The programme includes the classic Nightmail with poetry by W.H. Auden and music by Benjamin Britten as well many other gems.

To get
a taste, you can preview one of them, Norman Mclaren's surrealistic animation Love on the Wing - suppressed by the Postmaster-General of the time as "too Freudian" - on our website, courtesy of the BFI's excellent YouTube channel.

Graeme's other podcast is on Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of the acclaimed masterpieces of silent cinema. It screens at 8.45pm this Wednesday 1 April with an introduction and specially composed piano accompaniment by the very talented Paul Shallcross. You won't get the chance to experience an event like this again!

Listen to Graeme to discover why.
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Saturday 28 March 2009

Of Time and the City: Review

Greetings to all. My name is Nick, and I’m a film student at Hereford College of Arts. Along with a few of my fellow students, I’ve been asked to review some of the films you can see for yourselves at this year’s festival. I’ll be submitting these on an irregular basis, so be sure check the website every now and then to read our thoughts on both the latest releases and cinematic classics.

To say that Of Time and the City is crammed with nostalgia is to do it a disservice, and an understatement. It’s absolutely teeming with nostalgia, and this is partly where the charm of the film lies.

The film, directed by Terence Davies, consists of a montage of film clips of Liverpool in various stages of life in the 20th century, from 1950 onwards. While a lot of effort has gone into finding the best footages the various archives have to offer, this would normally not be enough to carry such a film.

Which is where the music comes in. Giant, soaring classical pieces from the likes of Mahler and Handel accompany the snippets of video, taking the emotional effect to a higher plane and underlining certain sections looking at the issue of the class system and the huge housing blocks that came to dominate the city skyline. And this is helped immeasurably by Davies himself, providing narration reminiscing about his youth in the city.

And what a narrator he is. Like Watchmen’s Rorschach, albeit in a much better mood and with a poetical manner, Davies’ voice growls and booms and from the speakers like the word of God he refers to so often during the film, taking on a sense of the ethereal. His charm and wit certainly don’t hinder things, his anecdotes endearing himself to those in the audience (which, seeing I as was the only person under 50 attending this particular screening made for a cosy atmosphere!).

What this all adds up to is, as mentioned previously, nostalgia. What’s incredible is how it makes me, personally, feel nostalgia for a city I’ve never been to, and for a time I haven’t lived in. Of Time and the City is not simply a film about Liverpool, or Terence Davies. It is a film about childhood: mine, yours, and ours. It is a film about the cities and towns we grew up in, whatever and wherever they were. It is a film about that most important of human experiences: life.

I’d recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a change from the normal cinematic experience, regardless of age.

Next on my list of films to see is Robert Bresson’s POW drama A Man Escaped. Be seeing you!

Maldives set to become carbon neutral within ten years

Watch the President of the Maldives pledge to make his the first carbon neutral country in the world in a message relayed at The Age of Stupid premiere on March 15.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Extra speaker for Borderlines Debate

Joining our Climate Change and Sustainability day line-up on Friday 27 March is Jon Hallé, Project Manager of sharenergy and West Midlands Development Manager for Energy4All. Energy4All is a not-for-profit organisation that enables communities across the countryto set up renewable energy co-ops.

Along with Richard Priestley (solar power) and Alice Goldstone (hydropower) Jon will be taking part in the Alternative sources of energy session at 2pm.

Mark Lynas will be introducing The Age of Stupid in the morning with a short Q&A to follow but is unable to stay for the afternoon.

This event is now SOLD OUT.

But there's more opportunity to have your say next Tuesday 31 March, following the 4.15pm screening of The Age of Stupid when Transition Hereford will be hosting a debate at The Courtyard. The additional event is free but ticketed as places are limited. Contact The Courtyard Box Office on 01432 340555.

Festival opens at The Courtyard today

Screenings commence at The Courtyard in Hereford today with local filmmaker John Bulmer presenting one of his recent ethnographic documentaries Beehives and Runaway Wives at 2pm.

The magical adventure Inkheart (with Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent)
and Terence Davies's lyrical portrait of Liverpool through archive sound and film Of Time and the City follow.

Franny Armstrong climbing the infamous ladders Mer de GlaceMeanwhile this evening at Gorsley (near Ross) and Pudleston (near Leominster) Village Halls there's a personal message from director Franny Armstrong to open the first Borderlines screenings of The Age of Stupid. Transition Town Newent will be holding a discussion after the film at Gorsley. Call 01989 720617 for Gorsley bookings, 01568 750349 for Pudleston.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Calling all Hereford students

Still from GonzoKeen on cinema but can't afford the ticket prices? Sign up for The Courtyard's Student Advantage scheme. All you need to do is take a valid student ID, e-mail address and mobile phone no. to the Box Office to register and you can get in to see any films throughout the year for the knock-down price of £3. More information...

On offer at Borderlines, some great rockumentaries Anvil! The Story of Anvil (15) and Patti Smith: Dream of Life (15) plus (right) the daddy of chemically-fuelled excess, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S. Thompson (15)

Win a British Cinema DVD collection

BFI 75th Anniversary Box Set: A Centenary of British FilmThanks to our sponsor MovieMail, we have a prize of the limited edition BFI 75th Anniversary Box Set: A Centenary of British Film to offer. The collection includes some wonderful treasures including pre-sound versions of Dickens, highlights from the perennially-popular British Transport films, Jules Dassin's atmospheric London film noir Night and the City, Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, Peter Greenaway's early films, through to the 1997 drama Under the Skin, starring Samantha Norton. More information...

To enter, email us the answer to the following question:

Name one 2009 Oscar-winning film screening at Borderlines this year.

Use BFI 75 DVD as your subject line. Please include your name, address, post code and telephone number so we can be sure of contacting you should you win. Entries to be received by Saturday 28 March 2009. Winning entries will be drawn on Sunday and announced next week.

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Tuesday 24 March 2009

Visceral thrills - North Face and The Wrestler

Seeing films one up against the other is one of the great pleasures of a festival. It's a random process which can throw up some interesting juxtapositions.

Living near Ludlow, I've seen North Face followed by The Wrestler in the space of a couple of days. They're both in their very different ways about extreme physical exertion - competitiveness pushed to the limits - about display and technique. I know nothing about mountain-climbing but the sequence in North Face in which the German climbing team accomplishes the traverse is truly breath-taking.

Achievement is measured by physical marks. In North Face it's a case of making marks on the mountain, hammering in pitons for the ropes in order to claw a few feet higher. And the climbers are dwarfed by it. As one of the wise old guides points out, it's not called Eiger (Ogre) for nothing. It looms above the hotel where the spectators wait, cruelly and randomly transformed by weather conditions and light.

Turning to the The Wrestler it's the fighters themselves - and Mickey Rourke's Randy 'The Ram' in particular - who provide the presence. He is colossal with his gleaming, steroid-pumped body and flowing mane and its his scars, carefully displayed and catalogued to young fans, that bear witness to a life in the ring.

As we see, many of the cuts are self-inflicted, the stunts theatrical, just as the young climbers choose to subject themselves to indescribable hardship in order to attain their goal; it doesn't diminish the pain or reduce the spectacle. Gripping stuff.