Friday 31 December 2010

Festival Director David Gillam's Top Ten Films of 2010

On the last day of 2010, here are the films that David has rated most highly, some you may have seen already, others are to come along with the New Year...

Of Gods and Men
A Single Man
Winter's Bone
Of Gods and Men
Samson and Delilah
The Time That Remains
The Secret in Their Eyes
The Wind Journeys

Agree? Disagree? I was talking to one of my Ludlow Assembly Rooms cinema-going companions last night and The Secret in their Eyes and Winter's Bone were definitely on his list.

We'd be more than interested to find out what your favourite films of the year were. Don't be shy, leave a comment if so inclined.

Friday 24 December 2010

A very Happy Christmas (and a treat in store) from Borderlines Film Festival

Look forward to seeing you in 2011 from Friday 25 March to Sunday10 April when we will be visiting The Shop Around the Corner.

Friday 19 November 2010

One week left for Early Bird submissions to our British natural world film awards

Photo: Stephen Britten
Fascinated by nature? Do you record the landscape and the changing seasons on film or video? Submit your entries now to Under Open Skies,  our new awards for documentaries on Britain’s natural world and take advantage of our Early Bird discounted rates.

The awards celebrate the output of Harry Williamson, a dedicated amateur film-maker who painstakingly recorded the flora and fauna of Herefordshire while raising funds for the Herefordshire Nature Trust.

Shortlisted films, amateur as well as professional, will be showcased at the Festival in front of a jury panel of industry experts. Cash prizes of £1,000 will be awarded in each of the two categories at a ceremony to follow.

Guidelines and entry form.

Early Bird submissions close on Friday 26 November with a final entry deadline of Friday 7 January.

Monday 18 October 2010

Amateur passion for nature fuels new wildlife film awards

Just over a month till the November 26 Early Bird deadline for submissions to our new competition for documentaries featuring Britain's natural world. There will be awards in both amateur and professional categories but the inspiration for Under Open Skies derives from one man's obsession with capturing and sharing the intricacies of the world around him.

With David Attenborough at Wyevale c1988*

Harry Williamson was founder of the Wyevale Garden Centre but he was also a prolific amateur wildlife film-maker. His daughter, Christine Evans, talks about a hobby which for Williamson became "a consuming passion... he looked forward to retiring so that he could devote himself to it full time."

Christine remembers her father's attention to detail, "He had a very long list of friends and contacts; many local farmers and people associated with the Herefordshire Nature Trust, who would ‘phone him to tell of wildlife about to be born or hatched or unusual wildlife ‘happenings'. He would sit patiently day after day at times, waiting for snakes to hatch or the robins who built a nest in a tractor, so the farm work was late that year! Nothing was too humble – every bee, beetle and butterfly was lovingly observed and recorded."

In the process of making The River Wye he thought nothing of risking life and limb, "tied into a helicopter doorway, legs dangling," in order to get an establishing shot of the course of the river from the air.

Post-production was important to Williamson too, getting it right. It took over his domestic life, "once home with the film footage, he disappeared into his study, only emerging at mealtimes until it had been edited to his satisfaction.  Then the commentary and music were added, often with the help of a daughter, a record player, two tape recorders and lots of nodding!"

In Christine's words, "He was a real pioneer of serious home movies with what would now be regarded as very old fashioned equipment but produced quality films that have given great pleasure to thousands of people over the years."
Thanks to the generosity of Wyevale Nurseries it's fitting that Williamson's legacy is a national film award that recognises outstanding work in the field of wildlife and nature filmmaking, for amateur enthusiasts as well as professional film-makers, and a film festival platform that makes the results of their dedication accessible to wider audiences.

Our intention is that The Harry Williamson Award will showcase films that draw attention to the current state of our landscape, flora and fauna as well as the efforts of organisations and dedicated individuals to conserve it.

Guidelines and entry forms

*Photograph ©Philip Price, Herefordshire Nature Trust

Friday 24 September 2010

Honey flows, blood drips at 2nd Festival of British Cinema at Hay tonight

Our partner, The Screen at Hay, stages its second Festival of British Cinema at three venues through the town this weekend.

British cinema with a Welsh slant (as you might expect) it may be but the spectrum is anything but narrow.  It's wide-eyed with two '60s film A Taste of Honey and The Knack, featuring the distinctive Rita Tushingham) gory (a smattering of Hammer horror with Dracula, Prince of Darkness) sinister (ghost story, The Innocents, and Kevin Brownlow's evocation of what Britain would have been like under Nazi occupation, It Happened Here), musically attuned (Super Furry Animals, Joe Strummer, The Beatles and silent film accompanist, Neil Brand) and fun (Wallace and Grommit, Four Lions and Tamara Drewe).

And that's just the froth on top. Speakers (Matthew Sweet, Francine Stock, Kevin Brownlow, local author, Owen Sheers) shorts, documentaries, workshops too.

Monday 9 August 2010

Hay Film School 48-hour course coming September

Hay Film School is running a 48hr film making course to tie in with The 2nd Festival of British Cinema in Hay-on-Wye that runs this year from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 September.

This is a great opportunity for aspiring film-makers to test their ability to produce a short film on a tight deadline, with expert industry support and guidance. The films will be screened in HD at a venue in Hay over the Film Festival and will provide a showcase for their talent.  They will also be posted online.

In order to make it accessible to as many film-makers as possible the Film School is offering this course at an all-in fee of £200.

The dates for the course are Thursday 23 and Fri 24 September. The venue, TBA, will be in the centre of Hay-on-Wye, and accommodation can be arranged if required.

Details will be updated at this Facebook link.

Monday 2 August 2010

The scrapping of the UK Film Council

Last Monday's shock announcement by the DCMS that it plans to axe the UK Film Council has taken everyone, the film industry as well as the public, by surprise. No-one saw this coming.

It's hard to know what to make of it. For one thing, the outcome is not explicit. Switching over to the Parliament TV website (at 15:15) to catch questions on Jeremy Hunt's statement, there was nothing for three-quarters of an hour, then a request from Ian Paisley Jr for the minister to outline "what direct support and ambition this government has for filmmaking in Britain."

Hunt's reply came across as both non-committal and eminently reasonable: "We haven't announced the decision, we have announced that we are considering doing this because we want to hear everyone's views. What I will say is that the UK Film Council spends £3 million pounds per annum on administration, we want to ask whether that money could be better used to support filmmakers."

Nevertheless the universal reaction to the news has been that the scrapping of the UK Film Council is a matter of fact.

The questions that spring immediately to mind are invariably selfish. What does it mean for my organisation? What does it mean for me as an individual, working within the film sector and as a consumer of film and media? What will happen to current activities, to core funding and to projects already in the pipeline?

Festival Director, David Gillam speaking on Tuesday on BBC H&W (1 hour in) implied that it could be painful to contemplate how the scenario might impact on the film festival three, two, even one year hence.

Certainly almost everything Borderlines Film Festival currently does has a UK Film Council logo sitting on the bottom of it. What will happen to the Regional Screen Agencies through which some of the UK Film Council funds and decision-making filter through to organisations like Borderlines and Flicks in the Sticks? Here is the Screen England statement on the Screen West Midlands website.

It seems to me that whatever the Film Council's bureaucratic shortcomings, the real danger is the scrapping of an infrastructure not only for film production but, even more significantly, for film distribution and exhibition in this country, for training and innovation. It all tallies with the notion of David Cameron's Big Society which is another way of saying that everything sinks or swims commercially. If you're bothered, throw it a life raft (charitable giving and philanthropy is nicely embedded in The Big Society Cabinet Office statement).

Satirist Alastair Beaton defined the coalition government's use of the word "empowerment" to devalue such things -  education, hospitals, as well as cultural activity - very succinctly on the Today programme this morning, "We in government are going to stop doing what we used to do and if you don't do it as a volunteer  we'll close it down."

Here is a selection from the many, many articles that have appeared on the topic of the UK Film Council this past week.

From The Guardian with mixed reactions from figures in the industry.

Demise of the Film Council from the Putney Debater (Michael Chanan).

Dave Calhoun's argument for supporting the BFI and the notion of film as art (rather than commerce) in Time Out 

The UKFC Closing from the Sheffield Doc Fest blog.

Save the UK Film Council petition currently at 20,000+ signatures.

And here's Starsuckers director Chris Atkins's bracingly cynical take on the Council

N.B. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of Borderlines Film Festival.

Friday 23 July 2010

Rescue the Hitchcock 9

The BFI has launched a worldwide campaign to save the 9 surviving silent films by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. Decades of wear and tear have left the films, a key part of British cinematic history, in urgent need of restoration.

To get an idea of just how painstaking the work that needs to be done is, view the video on the BFI website about the techniques used recently to restore Anthony Asquith's Underground (1928).

More here on the 9 Hitchcock films plus link to donate. The restoration work is frame by frame so every penny counts!

Friday 4 June 2010

To fans of Still Walking (within reach of Hereford)

If, like me, you loved the nuances of the Japanese film Still Walking - it did come second in our Favourite Film Poll - don't miss the 1953 masterpiece Tokyo Story, on for one night only at The Courtyard this Monday (7 June).

Wednesday 26 May 2010

What price Citizen Journalism?

A post on Twitter yesterday yanked me back to citizen journalism, the topic of this year's Borderlines Debate, Here Comes Everyone:).

What happened was that three images tweeted by a team member of Just Do It, (documentary in the making about the climate camps) were appropriated by the Daily Mail without any form of payment or accreditation. The photos showed queues of voters being turned away from their polling station in Dalston on election night.

Mindful of Christian (Documentally) Payne's advice at Here Comes Everyone:

Emily James, one of the climate camp speakers at the event, invoiced the Mail's Picture Editor only to receive a predictably evasive rebuttal. Read the full background and correspondence here.

It comes down to value. On the ground, Just Do It had caught something of the moment that traditional reporting mechanisms had failed to capture on the Mail's behalf. Nevertheless, using the well-worn amateur/professional yardstick, the paper is seeking to DE-value the pictures by claiming that they are in the public domain.

Citizen journalism coexists. Indeed the public is encouraged to feed old school print and broadcast media with photos and mobile phone footage of breaking events. But the value balance remains precarious; CJ also represents a challenge and threat to the way things have always been done.

When citizen journalism picks up on events that would normally be suppressed - and the film Burma VJ is moving and overwhelming testimony to that - it is priceless, subversive. No-one would dispute that.

On the other hand, with the means to record anything cheaply and well at our fingertips there's also a lot of blather out there. A question from floor during the Here Comes Everyone debate made the point that Christian Payne is special (in terms of talent, facility, initiative), a specialist, if you like, but many who tote cameras and other technology are not. How can we find our way through a sea of voices and distractions?

Back in the '80s I worked on a documentary for Channel 4 about the Super 8 film format. It explored the way home movie cameras were being used for purposes other than those they had been designed for.

One of the people we interviewed was Gwynne Roberts a freelance war reporter who took Super 8 cameras with him on missions to Kurdistan precisely because of what he called "their Mickey Mouse quality". He, a professional journalist for ITN, The Sunday Times and others, went undercover as an amateur to appear harmless, to slip through defences. Later he became one of the few people to interview Osama Bin Laden (Dispatches: The Saudi Tapes).

We also featured a Bolivian organisation that had gone into the country's remote Altiplano region to enable peasants who had never seen or even conceived of film in their lives to make a movie about how a land dispute by their community had been suppressed by the military. Their method was to train them, to show what had been done before and give people the means and the expertise to tell their own story. And this is the key.

The immediacy of being in a certain place at a particular moment is what we buy into with citizen journalism. That sense of authenticity can, however,  be replicated as a style. This is something we need to be aware of, both as media-makers and media-consumers.

The other film that made up part of Here Comes Everyone was The Yes Men Fix the World was all to do with hoaxes, the fact that two self-styled jokers in cheap suits managed to swipe 2 billion dollars off the market price of a multinational company by going on to News 24 and lying (semi-convincingly).

And elsewhere at Borderlines Chris Atkins's Starsuckers revealed the gullibility not just of the public but of a venal media industry, greedy for sensationalism.

So the moral seems to be:
Check the facts.
Keep your wits about you.
Get media-literate
Just do it!

Saturday 22 May 2010

Tyneside birthday treat: programming democracy

Today, Saturday 22 May, is the second birthday of Newcastle's refurbished Tyneside Cinema. To celebrate, the venue's three cinemas have largely been given over to movies chosen by members of the public.

Take Over Tyneside comprises seventeen films from The Red Balloon at 10.45am all the way through to Eraserhead at 11pm. It's fascinating to take a look at the sheer range of the selection: classics like Dark Victory and Rear Window, not to mention Koyaanasqatsi, Apocalypse Now and 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as I Don't Want To Sleep Alone, a low key Malaysian film from 2007 about companionship on the edge of society.

Each person had to state why they nominated a particular film and will be presenting their choice to the audience so four-year-old Lily Matthews will be introducing Heidi.

Sounds an intriguing experiment. Hope it's not scuppered by too much unprecedented sun.

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Young Farmers at Hay Festival Friday 28 May

If you enjoyed or missed the sell-out documentary-in-progress Young Farmers at Borderlines 2010  there's the opportunity to catch an update at the forthcoming Hay Festival.

Hereford-based Cantilupe Projects is filming members of the Herefordshire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs over a year: breeding the perfect dairy cow, laying a good hedge, parting sheep after a season on the Black Mountain, trying to find affordable housing - the passionate, authentic voices of farming’s ‘new blood’ talk about their work and the issues that affect their rural communities.

The event is at 9pm on Friday 28 May in The Ritzy tent on the Hay Festival site and will involve a short introduction from the director, Anne Cottringer, screening of extracts from the film, presentations from some more of the young farmers who have participated in the project and the opportunity to discuss the issues that the documentary raises. Footage is still being shot and the event gives a sneak preview of a truly local film-in-the-making. Book here.

If you can't make it, the documentary now has its own website (initiated in the Talk About Local workshop that was part of the Citizen Journalism event at Borderlines this year), featuring a different video clip from the film each week. There are also short extracts of the three young speakers, Richard Thomas, Ben Pritchard and Jono Rogers, at the event.

Monday 17 May 2010

David Gillam reports from Cannes Film Festival: A Screaming Man

I saw A Screaming Man today - very WOW (Wales One World Festival) - builds slowly to an emotional climax that it really earns, having created such solid well-rounded characters.

Le Quattro Volte (the one concerning goats that everyone is talking about) tomorrow.

Sunday 16 May 2010

David Gillam reports from Cannes Film Festival: Aurora

The most interesting film I've seen is Cristian (Death of Mr Lazarescu) Puiu's Aurora that succeeds in something quite unusual - making murder totally mundane.

Again it is 3 hours long. For the vast majority of that time nothing happens. A man skulks around Bucharest doing mundane chores, sometimes spying on people. Halfway through he murders 4 people in quick succession - and then carries on as before.

Extraordinary and ordinary woven seamlessly together.

Friday 16 April 2010

Call for young West Midlands film-makers to show work at Glastonbury 2010

The West Midlands Culture Programme for London 2012 is looking for films in two categories which reflect both the spirit of Glastonbury and the Olympic movement. Welcome the World is a call for silent films with a purely visual narrative which celebrate the values of the Olympic Games including friendship, determination, inspiration and excellence.  Hug the Planet is supported by Natural England and is an open call for films which again have a strong visual narrative on the themes of biodiversity, healthy living, climate change, waste and inclusion.

The team in the West Midlands are also inviting adult film-makers the opportunity to submit short films for After Dark which will show the seamier, sinister and darker side of life and animations or ambient films including time delay, abstract work or art film of up to ten minutes long to be shown at the Festival.

The Village Screen is a unique collaboration between the UK's creative agencies and the BBC. The screen will be used to showcase the work of some of the best young film making talent, digital artists and developers from the West Midlands to thousands of people at Glastonbury. 

Paul Kaynes, West Midlands Creative Programmer said:  “This is a brilliant project and an excellent example of how the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is bringing creative and cultural experiences to new audiences right across the country who wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to see this work. It’s great for our region as we have such a fantastic film and screen talent based here in the West Midlands so I look forward to viewing the submissions.” 
Films should be submitted in DVD format and be accompanied by a completed submissions or permissions form by 23 April 2010. These forms plus terms & conditions for entry can be found in the related documents column on the right of the screen.
Please send your film and completed form to Paul Kaynes, West Midlands Creative Programmer, West Midlands Culture Programme for London 2012, The Arts Council, 82 Granville Street, Birmingham  B1 2LH.

One film-maker in each category will be chosen to receive a pair of tickets to attend the 2010 Glastonbury Festival.

For more information please contact Moira Rawlings, Editorial Content Producer, West Midlands Culture programme for London 2012 via email: or mobile 0787 241 2806

(via Shropshire and Telford Arts Partnership e-news)

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Citizen Journalism and the General Election

With the announcement today of the date for the General Election (May 6th in case you impossibly missed it) there's an excellent and informative post on Blogging the 2010 election by Talk About Local who ran the citizen journalism workshop at the Festival. It gives details of online resources that give this election, above all others, that extra interactive twist, enabling you to interrogate your local politicians directly on pressing issues, dig into their background, share their thoughts, offer yours,  not to mention exploring the betting odds. Whether more digital equates with with more democratic remains to be seen.

In addition, official Election Artist, photographer Simon Roberts, commissioned to document campaign activity in the run-up to the General Election, has made The Election Project a collaborative enterprise by inviting members of the public to contribute photographs of political activity in their area. With some affinity to the Mass Observation project of the late 1930s that, using volunteers, set out to document by various means the day-to-day life of ordinary people in Britain, it claims to be the first UK citizen journalism political photography project ever.

View the online gallery here

Upload your photographs here

Tuesday 23 March 2010

E-newsletter subscribers! Betty's Bath Prize Draw winner

Congratulations to Stanley Barten from Tenbury Wells who wins the Betty's Bath DVD from the prize draw in our last e-newsletter.

The Surprise Silent Film Programme introduced by Kevin Brownlow included the succinct Betty's Bath from this collection of playful and (by modern standards) fairly innocent erotic short films, made in after-hours Hollywood and unearthed next to a hand grenade in an air raid shelter in West Hampstead.

The DVD is available to purchase from our sponsor MovieMail who kindly donated the DVD for this and all the other competitions and prize draws exclusive to e-newsletter subscribers.

Monday 22 March 2010

Borderlines Film Festival: your favourite film

The films you the audience voted for turned out to be very different from those that proved popular at the box office.

While over 1,000 people came to see An Education, followed by large audience figures for Up in the Air and Nowhere Boy, when it came to our online poll it was two Japanese films that came out on top.

Departures, with its fresh take on life and death through the eyes of a young ceremonial corpse-washer,  won a resounding 18% of the vote with the understated meditation on family life, Still Walking, second with 13%.

Other films you rated highly were Nowhere Boy, The Limits of Control, Welcome, Tulpan, The Hurt Locker and Katalin Varga. All this indicates that there's a core audience at Borderlines that favours some of the more unusual and intriguing films on offer at the festival.

Monday 15 March 2010

Documentally and Ryan Bingham: what they have in common

Have noted before the beauty of festivals, that they generate random coincidences. I was reflecting on Christian Payne's envigorating keynote speech at Here Comes Everyone: Citizen Journalism in the Digital Age in Week 1 of Borderlines.

"What does that remind me of?" I thought. Then it clicked.
Travelling light.


Having everything you could possibly require a fingertip or two away.

It's all in the backpack.

It's Up in the Air!

Take my word for it or compare and contrast the trailer in which George Clooney as downsizing consultant, Ryan Bingham, delivers his presentation about the benefits of not weighing yourself down with material possessions or constricting relationships:

with this from Christian Payne, aka Documentally, at the event on Wednesday 3 March:

Both are driven, experts in their field, both are charismatic. Pie charts, networks, communications, it's all there.

Although I must add that Christian told us that family relationships figure high on his agenda; his son, Minimentally, had a web presence within seconds of being born or was it even in the womb? There's Granumentally too. He keeps in touch.

Rounding up/looking forward

All over for another year. Dates for Borderlines 2011: Friday 25 March to Sunday 10 April

Thanks to everyone who came to one of our 200 plus screenings for your support and we hope you enjoyed the film festival as much as we did!

Don't forget you have a week to vote for your favourite film on our online poll.

If you didn't get a chance to fill in one of our questionnaires you can still do this online.

A special thank-you to all projectionists and technicians without whom nothing would have appeared on the big screen, also to our volunteers including all of the dedicated Flicks in the Sticks promoters who bring cinema to all corners of the Marches the year round.

And just to bring everything full circle, here's the moment before the first screening of the Festival, Nowhere Boy in the Studio at The Courtyard in Hereford at 2pm on Friday 26 February.

And a snapshot from the auditorium just before the penultimate film, The Hurt Locker, 6.30pm on Sunday 14  March in the Main House, again at The Courtyard.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Cutting the cloth before Coco (Before Chanel)

Fashion and film collide: this evening's screening of Coco Before Chanel at the SpArC Centre in Bishops Castle has an added dimension.

For one, the promoters of the event, SpArClife, are under 25. The SpArC is the recipient of a Big Lottery Award for a project called Where's the Art in SpArC? The two year programme has just started  and will see a variety of arts activities led by and for 11-25 year-olds, culminating in the commissioning of a major piece of public art (worth up to £10,000) for the Centre.

For today the organisers have arranged a film-making and a textiles workshop to run concurrently from 12pm to 4pm. Participants in the Pretty Rubbish textile workshop have been asked to bring along old, unwanted clothes for a major revamp; the other group will film what they do and the results SpArClife: the Catwalk will be shown alongside the main feature this evening at 7pm.

SpArClife Facebook page

Thursday 11 March 2010

Sex and Drugs and Sunday Lunch

Mavericks sticker
By popular demand, we've put on another screening of the Ian Dury biopic with a "barnstorming, passionate performance" (Guardian) by Andy Serkis. This performance of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll is at 4pm at The Courtyard, Hereford on the final day of the Festival, Sunday 14 March.

Hurry and book before this too sells out.

Call 01432 340555 or

Buy Courtyard tickets button

Wednesday 10 March 2010

And the surprise film is...

Showing at 6.30pm on Sunday 14 March, the closing day of the Festival, the low-budget, low-grossing indie film about the Iraq war that has blasted a trail though both Oscars and the BAFTAs, winning awards in 6 categories at each.

This is the first time in the 82 year-old history of the Academy Awards that the Best Director Oscar has been won by a woman. And though director, Kathryn Bigelow was at pains to minimise the significance of her gender, The Hurt Locker is a remarkable achievement: a taut and totally absorbing action film that puts you in the shoes of the foot-soldier rather than at the controls of expensive, hi-tech hardware.

This blog from The Pinocchio Theory gives an interesting and in-depth reading of Bigelow's work in general and, at the close, of The Hurt Locker in particular.

The screening will be popular so call The Courtyard Box Office on 01432 340555 or
Buy Courtyard tickets button

Contrasting Journeys at Ludlow Assembly Rooms

Sunday at Ludlow Assembly Rooms for Treeless Mountain, a tale of two little Korean girls offloaded by their mother, first to their reluctant aunt than to equally reluctant grandparents, a journey from a city to a town to a farm. Then an hour later The Road which I don’t have to prĂ©cis. The first a touching and delicate film seen through the eyes of a very young child, the second a bleak view of a journey in the hope of safety from a humanity stripped to the essentials for survival.

Both are about our journey through life and our capacity to adapt and survive; the first essentially optimistic, the second less convinced. Treeless Mountain has received little publicity; it is a ‘small’ film but a delightful one. I urge you to see it.

The Road is a fine film and I am a big fan of Cormac McCarthy, but he surely didn’t write the final scene (I haven’t yet read the book). An audience that has persevered through an hour and three quarters of bleakness deserves a better finale than a two-minute hosing down with corn syrup. The story ended when the boy took the gun from his father and chose not to use it. We didn’t need the mutt, which must have been a gift from a focus group in Peoria.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Still walking; still talking

Still Walking is a film in which nothing happens and everything happens. I'm a sucker for Japanese films anyway, often because they undermine the stereotype we have of formality and reserve. Hirokazu Kore-eda's gentle and absorbing film about a day in the life of an extended Japanese family is a gem. We slowly comprehend the family history, and we begin to recognise the unspoken rules and the tiny signifiers that carry such enormous weight. Not to mention the dissonance between what is spoken and what is meant. And a lot of words are spoken. It was often difficult to keep up with the density of the subtitled dialogue and the on-screen action (not that the word 'action' is a useful word in the context of this film). But no matter as this is a film that merits a second viewing.

It was at once both Japanese and universal. It's one of the strengths of film that we can recognise ourselves in the lives of others, and one of the joys of Borderlines that we are given so many opportunities to do so.

Brilley Sleeps Furiously

We ventured out to Brilley on the first Saturday evening of the festival to find a packed village hall and only a few cushions left for hire. Their adventurous choice of film - Sleep Furiously - had brought in some local farming families for the first time ever, as well as Festival goers like ourselves from away. Anticipation was high, tinged with a little nervousness from the organisers. The film is an extraordinary mix of the fascinating, the banal and the arty. But, not to worry! The audience recognised so much that is relevant to them - the long static camerawork over the beautiful, empty landscape, the annual round of farm work, the mobile library, the village show, the dogs and the sheep, the wonderful comedy moments and a particularly poignant one. The village discussed the closure of its school and who owned the land. Brilley's school closed 3 years ago and still sits empty and boarded up next to the village hall.

What with this film and the screening of Anne Cottringer's Young Farmers (work in progress) at the Courtyard the same morning, the Festival feels really special - a rural festival, by and about the communities which live here. The Brilley ploughman's supper afterwards was delicious, the damson chutney (wow!) and more people arrived for the second film of the evening - The Grocer's Son. I remind myself how enjoyable and worth making the effort it is to go to the Borderlines Flicks screenings. And I return with pertinent comments about and praise for the Festival. For the lady who wanted to know more about the way Sleep Furiously looked - I asked the producer, Margaret Matheson, when she arrived for the Ross Flicks screening the following Monday. She said that the film was shot on 16mm film rather than video because the director, Gideon Koppel, thought it would look better that way. It was transferred straight to digital for editing. The look of the film is very important; it is best viewed on DVD on a very good television. Projected onto a large screen it can look soft, faded and thin which was not how it's intended to.

From Jane Jackson, Borderlines Board Member

Monday 8 March 2010

Vote for your favourite Borderlines 2010 film

N.B. You can only vote once from the same computer!

The poll closes one week after the end of the Festival, at 11pm on Sunday 21 March. The results will be announced here on the Festival blog and will feed through to News Updates on the Welcome page of the Borderline website.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Katalin Varga

This was an experiment. I didn’t really expect to enjoy it, but that’s what film festivals are for. In fact this is a very strong story, a tragedy which, as it unfolds, slowly reveals its inevitability. Classic stuff.

The tragedy plays out against the beauty of rural Romania which the cameraman clearly relishes. The soundtrack is particularly inventive without being intrusive and adds a lot to the experience. Dark and unflinching, but well worth seeing.

Friday 5 March 2010

44 Inch Chest

The opening scene is promising, the soundtrack a delicious contrast with the action. The cast could hardly be better, though if, like me, you last saw two of them playing together as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in John Adams, it will take a while to adjust to the two East End villains you see here. And they enjoy themselves hugely, so we do too.

Unfortunately, while a torrent of obscenity can be funny – and I laughed loud enough - it can’t stay funny for long. Similarly the use of one set for almost all the action is a challenge. Combining that with the ironic opening music strongly suggests Reservoir Dogs, but there just isn’t Tarantino’s flair for using music to point up the darkness of the action here. The fact that they got Badalamente (Twin Peaks) to do the soundtrack suggests that they were trying, but it just doesn’t succeed.

Fatally, there is a loss of momentum well before the end, and even the irony of Ray Winstone’s paean to love and marriage, fine in itself, leaves it looking like a stage play that didn’t survive translation into film.

The White Ribbon

Haneke says the purpose of art is to ask questions, not to give answers and he does his best to live up to that here. It takes a lot to keep my attention for 2 hours and 25 minutes and in this case I was rapt.

What happens is a series of cruel events, all the more disturbing for occurring off screen. The overt question is ‘who is doing it?’ But that question is just the narrative. The real question is why? And beyond that, where will it lead and who is responsible? There is a lot more going on here than a whodunnit. The whole point of the film is to provoke you to ask questions so I’m not going to venture any answers. It is easy enough to construct a hypothesis about the historical and political context, but it is the psychology that Haneke is exploring. The actions and omissions of the people whose roles are the spiritual leader, the healer and the teacher are surely not happenstance.

Beautifully shot, perfectly paced, deeply disturbing, I'll see it again, and soon, though I doubt I’ll get any answers.

Thursday 4 March 2010

James Price on Shell Shock: Leinthall Starkes on big screen tonight

Tonight at 6.15pm, the only chance to see Shell Shock, shot in Tokyo, London and Leinthall Starkes, North Herefordshire, at Borderlines. It's the debut feature of James Price, a 33-year-old director with roots in the Marches farming community. James remembers his art lessons with Jane Wells in Leintwardine, his two years at Art College in Hereford and his formative cinema experiences, "I'm very pleased to be showing my first film at Borderlines in Hereford. Some of my earliest memories of cinema are of going to see Octopussy at the Hereford Odeon and The Return of the Jedi at the Regal in Tenbury."

The subject of Shell Shock is highly topical: a young veteran of an unknown war suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that renders him unable to cope with everyday life and normal relationships. “My film is about the effects war can have on anyone,” says James, “I want it to make people stop and think about what’s going on. And I want them to ask questions.” 
 “We forget that war has got more psychological today. You no longer know who the enemy is. They’re not in uniform. They attack and then melt away. You no longer know who is going to shoot you.” 

As the debate over the Iraq War rumbles on, the director refuses to commit publicly to one side or the other. “My film is apolitical. I do have a view on the Iraq War and Afghanistan, but it’s not for me to agree or disagree with the war in Iraq. It’s too late to say whether Tony Blair was right or wrong (to send the troops in). It’s happened. And people are losing limbs, seeing their friends die.”

“It’s very difficult for someone who has not been involved in military conflict, who’s not been in a war situation, to comprehend what’s going on. And OK, it’s a tiny percentage of soldiers who suffer from stress disorders. But the consequences can be devastating.”

James’ advisors included a psychologist who had worked with the Territorial Army and a former paratrooper, a guy, he says, “who could not sleep at night.” He based his film on the experiences of servicemen involved in conflicts in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. 

Working on a tiny budget (Shell Shock cost £18,000, self-financed from working as an Art Director on films as diverse as Bullet Boy, Grow Your Own and Miss Austen Regrets) James, who comes from an agricultural background (his father Robert Price farmed Barn Farm at Leinthall Starkes), used his uncle’s farm for location shots of the battle zone. 
 The Marches landscape, bleak and rugged in March when filming took place, was ideal. “I simply wanted to portray the experience that could be any soldier’s, in any country, in any conflict, in any place in history. It’s important for us, for the public, to comprehend what war is like, and what the consequences are for what soldiers have seen and done in the theatre of war. I want them to ask  questions - because I don’t have the answers.”

The screening at Borderlines is backed by The Producers’ Forum whose CEO, Shrewsbury-based, BAFTA-winning producer, Natasha Carlish will conduct a Q&A with James.

Here Comes Everyone

Fascinating afternoon yesterday, with the debates around citizen journalism and the various speakers. If you haven't caught Christian Payne yet, I urge you to seek out his websites 'Documentally' and/or 'Our Man Inside'. Better still...catch him in person. I thought I was tech-aware, but that half hour made me feel like a dinosaur! Not too late to catch up with exciting developments in networking. Do it now!

44" Chest

I came out of this believing it is definitely number one in the rankings so far for, to use the film's own language, the Borderlines Crock of S-i-e 2010 award. But this morning I have calmed down. We can all chuckle and titter like naughty boys and girls at scatology reminiscent of Gilbert and George in their turd period, but does it add up to anything? Other than a C of S? As for the performances, definitely award winning stuff at the Ham School of Acting final year shows. And most of it seemed to be a reprise of performances in other films, now tarnished with over use. Whatever happened to the Stately Homo of England? Someone please write JH a part worth playing. That's two bad 'uns in one festival. If the film was saved by anything it was its tantalising beginning, before any actor turned up on screen, and the performances by the dog and the waiter. Both deserve an Oscar or BAFTA just for putting up with it all. The blessed release from brown noise during the conversion from violence to forgiveness made that scene the best, with its almost pieta quality. But it only just beat the dog. Then to cap it all the whole sorry business ended with a camera move straight out of the BBC crane department. When will these people ever learn? But as I say, I am now calmer. I am no longer shouting obscenities at the night sky.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The Director's Cut

There have been complaints. Several regular Borderliners have commented that the burning issue for them is the state of David Gillam's hair. They are shocked that he has been sporting a pony tail and are of the opinion that this is just not good enough. The fans want the biggest hairdo available to humanity; they want it here and they want it now!

I could've been a Beatle....

An Education and Nowhere Boy are both set in the dark days of the late 50s and early 60s. Remarkably both films were in colour, which is not how I remember the time. My hometown was grey, I was grey, even the dog was grey. This was partly as a result of post war economics and the transfer of vast sums of money to our gallant allies the USA, who supported us financially during the war, but then wanted all the cash back. But the dullness of the time was also because our parent's generation had had rather too much excitement over the previous twenty years and were happy to settle for a little light boredom in exchange for a lack of bombs.

I can't blame them (though I did at the time) but I do remember the stultifying dreariness and the yearning for glamour and excitement. And jazz clubs. Because jazz was cool and sophisticated and pop had come over all Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde and was safely in the clutches of Tin Pan Alley and the BBC Home Service. An Education portrayed this desperation for escape beautifully, with some fabulous performances, although Peter Sarsgaard was surely miscast.

Nowhere Boy begins slightly earlier, when there was still a rough edge to Rock and Roll and even Elvis had not yet turned into a pudgy warbler of dreary ballads. John Lennon's first performance was as leader of a skiffle group. The shambolic recruitment of the band took me back to a day when, as a shy 15 year old I stood at the back of my local youth club. There was to be a festival of youth at the Civic Hall. A skiffle group was to be formed and could anyone play the guitar? To my mounting horror, I raised my hand with a show of bravado. I was in. My only niggling doubt was that I was neither able to play, nor did I own a guitar. But my Uncle Jack did. I cycled over. "Could I borrow your guitar and can you teach me to play it by Saturday?" And somehow he did, or at least well enough for us to perform in front of an audience of several hundred. And for that one evening I was overwhelmed by the glamour of show biz.

So as I watched Nowhere Boy, observing that 'The Quarry Men's' efforts were little better than those of the glorious but ephemeral Saint Anne's Youth Club Skiffle Group, I enjoyed for a brief moment the illusion that 'I could've been a Beatle.........'

Tuesday 2 March 2010

The White Ribbon

Anyone can tell you that what a successful thriller needs most of all is tension. And, appropriately enough for a rural-set film, The White Ribbon has it in spades.

Right from the off, I was unsettled. It’s likely that this stemmed from what I knew of the film’s plot (focusing on a series of sinister incidents in a German village), and my previous encounters with the work of Michael Haneke (specifically Hidden and Funny Games, both of which should be on your must-see list if you enjoyed this). Anyway, it is this tension that elevates certain scenes from being a black-and-white Lark Rise to Candleford.

Speaking of black-and-white, the film is beautifully shot. Every frame is a perfect photograph, and Christian Berger (the film’s cinematographer) deserves every award available for his efforts. Haneke also deserves plaudits for his scriptwriting ability, particularly for raising sympathy for a character that turns out to be an utter bastard.

Without giving too much away, the conclusion of the plot may be too open-ended for some, especially considering the film’s running time of 144 minutes (I agree that this may be 30 or so minutes too many) Considering the script was originally envisioned as a three-part television series, this may explain the rigid three-act structure and slow (but no less gripping) pace.

A truly great thriller then, but one that may be more comfortable viewing on DVD.

"This could change your child and change you"

poster for Man with a Movie CameraIf you love cinema and you haven't seen Man with a Movie Camera I just have to urge you to go and see it. Not only because it's a classic silent film playing  with introduction and piano accompaniment by perennial Borderlines favourite, Paul Shallcross. Made by pioneer soviet film-maker and poet Dziga Vertov (real name: Denis Kaufman 'Dziga' from the noise the crank of a mechanical camera makes) it's an exuberant and stimulating city symphony, full of tricks and surprises.

Perhaps the most persuasive way of getting across why everyone, young and old, should see it is to quote one of the best writers on cinema, David Thomson:
 You may very well not know the history: how Dziga Vertov (also known as Denis Kaufman) was an inspiring spirit  and innovator in the field of newsreel in the Bolshevik era. You may not know or be excited by the Soviet urge that film could show the new country to itself as a mechanical marvel. Most important, let's say that you have young children who are monopolized by the screens that convey television, the Internet, and video games. You want to show them something that says "movie" and you have come to realize that "movie" is not really of your child's world. It's not quite like madrigals or belles lettres. But it's changed. Try The Man with a Movie Camera.
You will find that the child's lack of contet or narrative guilt accepts easily Vertov's conceit of the cameraman as everyman - the proletarian hero who has the powere and the camera knowledge to show us not just ourselves , but visibility itself. Of course, the film is full of tricks and editing but they are all as candid and innocent as someone warning you that he's going to cheat you. I have never found a child who was not sad whe the film ended , who did not have hundreds of questions about the world being filmed and a new exhilaration with the whole process.
I will go further. This is only a very partial record of Russia in the 1920s, so filled with hope and beauty as to be out of its mind with poetry. In being out of its mind, the camera makes a first step towards story.  In truth, this film is a utopian vision - it never was or will be as free from friction and other problems. Like I am Cuba, looking at Cuba in 1964, it is far less about the real place that the profound desire to sing or shout out.

This could change your child and change you. With The Passion of Joan of Arc it is, I believer, the only silent film that needs no qualification or apology. It is perfect. It is new still. And it makes you love the world...
from David Thomson 'Have You Seen ...?'

Chris Atkins at greater length

For those who attended the stimulating Starsuckers screening (bit of a tongue-twister there!) with Q&A last night, you may be interested to read an extended interview with Chris Atkins in the current issue of Films & Festivals, aptly devoted to subversive documentaries. We have several of these in the Borderlines programme this year and if you found the questions raised in Starsuckers and Taking Liberties of interest,  I can particularly recommend The Yes Men Fix the World and We Live in Public alongside.

Turn to p. 40 for the interview.

And our special thanks to BAFTA and Screen West Midlands for making the series of events with Chris possible.

Monday 1 March 2010

Chris Atkins' Starsuckers Event

Just got back from a very successful evening at the Courtyard where Chris Atkins, the director of Starsuckers, was in attendance for a showing of his film. A lively Q&A followed with Chris highlighting the many hurdles he faced bringing this brave film to the screen. The movie will premiere on UK TV in the near future, following it's showing at the London Film Festival last year. This, in itself, is somewhat of a triumph as distributors were less than keen for the film to find an audience - being complicit in the celebrity 'merry-go-round' as they are. Unsurprising, as the more obvious 'targets' are joined in the finale by the organizers of 2005's Live 8 concert, who are exposed as naive at best. Not a populist view, to be sure. This is a film that should be seen as an education for media-hungry youngsters and Chris Atkins is keen to promote media studies in general as cautionary rather than celebratory. He is working tirelessly to promote the piece around the country and tonight's showcase at Borderlines was received enthusiastically. Be sure to catch it on TV if you weren't there tonight. You won't regret it. Unmissable!


The contrast between Seraphine and her German patron was beautifully done. I am left with images of her glowing face, the sounds of her mutterings and the steel heels of her boots on the cobbles, and his quiet concern for her. The part of the his sister was also a gem, with hints to Otto Dix's portrait of Sylvia von Hauden. Yet another great choice from the festival director.

Snap it!

Borderlines is such a difficult event to pin down we thought we'd throw out the challenge - in the form of a photography competition - to our audiences to capture the spirit of the festival, not an easy undertaking as most events take place under low light conditions. You can either submit images via Flickr to the Group Borderlines snapped! or e-mail your entries with Borderlines snapped! in the subject line. But no more that 1 photo per person per day, please!

The competition will be judged by Hereford Photography Festival and the prize (in addition to the kudos) is Riviera Cocktail, a film about the Edward Quinn, photographer of the 1950s glitterati, DVD courtesy of MovieMail. Deadline for entries is Tuesday 16 March, two days after the close of the Festival.

Katalin Varga

A true Revenger's Tragedy. Furies chasing a Fury in a landscape to match. An extraordinary sound track. And just as you are wondering how it is all going to end, it suddenly does, and you are left wondering whether there is hope for those who survive, or whether the circle of revenge will resume in the future. Again and again successive festivals show us that you don't need a big budget. In fact there might well be an inverse law of budgets that matches the inverse law of hype. All you need is a story, some actors, a camera and some film, and the passion and commitment to see it through. It all sounds so simple, but of course it isn't. Look on all you aspiring film makers and be impressed.

!!Stop Press!! Sleep Furiously producer in Ross tonight

Mid-Wales landscape, lakes and hills on a sunny daySleep Furiously director Gideon Koppel is currently in the US but the film's producer, Margaret Matheson, will introduce tonight's screening at St May's Church Hall, Ross, 7pm.

More Thanks for 'Welcome' and I hear 'Seraphine' is a Must See too

I would like to second 'Captain Finborough's' comments regarding Welcome. I went to it not knowing what to expect and came out of the cinema moved by the story, the subtle performances, and the quiet way it took us through a fraught and current human predicament -- immigration/migration. Thanks to Borderlines for bringing this to our screens. I've also heard that Seraphine is another one not on the mainstream awards lists, but that a gem nevertheless. So time to go order another ticket...

The Limits of Control

Oh dear. Pseuds' corner or what. I think we may have found the Borderlines Golden Turkey of 2010 with this one. This looked to me like the work of a first year film student with far too much money. There some striking images, the contrast between the chiselled features of the protagonist and the soft delights of his temptress being one of them, but it is easy to light and edit tableau. The final fortress may have been entered just by using the imagination, but I needed more than that to enter this film, and I found nothing. At almost two hours, it certainly touched the limits of my control.


The true delight of the festival is that every so often we are treated to a gem, and this is one of them. I approached it with some trepidation as other films on this issue have been heavy handed and clumsy, but not this one. Indeed it is an example of what good film making is all about. A compelling story, unobtrusively lit and edited, with strong performances and assured direction. Thank you Mr. Gillam

The Cove

Five minutes to go, and I walk into an empty auditorium. A woman enters who has a seat next to mine, then two more people follow her. That was Friday. On Sunday I am told that no more than twenty people attended the screening. You Animal Liberationistas, you Greenies, you Tree Huggers, shame on you all. This is a classically constructed, gripping documentary, about an annual event that obviously Hereford activists either know nothing about or do not care about, that should have been packed out. The one underwater shot as the 'harvest' began is on its own worth going for, and is certainly worthy of any horror film. If it gets it, the film will deserve its Oscar.

Sunday 28 February 2010

Nowhere Boy

It's a real nowhere film. The director was well served by her cast, but they were ill served by their director. This is a sorry, dull piece of film making, some of it on a par with the worst excesses of the BBC period films department, only occasionally leavened by great performances. If the editing 'was just painful' and there really were 'endless possibilities' then Taylor-Wood picked the wrong ones. Conceptual artist she may well be, but film maker she is not. Well, not yet. But would you give her another chance?

The Limits of Control (or, Two Espressos in Separate Cups)

Having seen a number of Jim Jarmusch’s films before, I thought I knew what I was letting myself into with The Limits of Control. I was wrong.

Previous Jarmusch films have always used a slow build-up of around 30 minutes or so, and then segue into (and I realise this isn’t the right phrase, but you’ll understand what I mean) non-stop action for the remainder of the film. Limits isn’t like that. Here, around 99% of the film’s running time is devoted to the build-up, resulting in a short climax that has a requirement to be entertaining, or shocking enough to compensate for the constant calm of the previous hour and a half. And it doesn’t quite manage that.

Let me clarify. The Limits of Control is an art film. It sacrifices plot for cinematography, dialogue for imagery, and substance for style. And that’s absolutely fine, if that’s what you are expecting. I wasn’t, and judging by the reactions of the audience around me, neither were they. Perhaps they were hoping for a more colourful, modern-day version of Dead Man, a film about an ordinary man thrust into extraordinary, psychedelic scenarios in the Wild West. Or, like me, they were expecting a European-flavoured companion piece to Ghost Dog, Jarmusch’s other film concerning a hired killer.

Limits will test the patience of the average cinema-goer, there’s no doubt about it. The audience is required to think, to analyse the images on-screen and consider their meaning. Like David Lynch’s recent Inland Empire, it is a film that will stay with you and a film you will feel stronger for having finished watching it. You may even sigh in relief. I did.

The lead character in Limits of Control explains that he achieves certain feats by “using my imagination”. The film asks that you do the same. The question is: Is that what you want from a cinematic experience? I’m perfectly happy to do that. I just appreciate a warning before I have to.

BAFTA London/BAFTA Hereford

Last Sunday: the annual BAFTA Awards ceremony at the Royal Opera House (see below). Today and tomorrow, Borderlines's own BAFTA event, Chris Atkins presents.

Today, at 5pm documentary film-maker Chris Atkins shows his 2007 film, Taking Liberties, a cautionary tale about the erosion of our civil liberties under the Blair government  in no less a venue than Hereford Cathedral which, appropriately enough, houses a copy of the Magana Carta in its archives. Free event.

Hot Docs stickerChild drinking baby booze from StarsuckersIs it implausible that Amy Winehouse should set fire to her hair while mending a fuse? Or that Guy Ritchie gave himself a black eye while 'juggling with cutlery'?

Find out in  Starsuckers, a mischievous and radical polemic on the way the media feeds and exploits our obsession with media culture, and think again, showing as part of our special BAFTA/Screen WM event at 6.15pm on Monday 1 March at The Courtyard in Hereford.

Head and shoulders portrait of Chris AtkinsThe event features a rare chance to see this new documentary and to take part in a Q&A with Chris  afterwards. And there's a reception to follow.
Buy Courtyard tickets button
BAFTA, Screen WM and UK Film Council logos
Meanwhile, back in London, Kathryn Bigelow's mesmerising Iraq war movie The Hurt Locker swept the board with six BAFTAs, including Best Film and Best Director, the first time a woman has ever won this category.
Best Actress to Carey Mulligan for her role as Jenny, a school girl seduced by suavity and '60s London, in An Education.

Katie Jarvis dancing in bare room as Mia in Fish TankOutstanding British Film went to Fish Tank, directed by another extremely able woman director, Andrea Arnold.

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won the BAFTA for the witty, incisive script of Up in the Air, written (according to Reitman) specifically for George Clooney's voice.

Tahar Rahim as Malik i prison in A ProphetFrench prison thriller A Prophet beat rival The White Ribbon in the Best Film Not in the English Language category.

While the spotlight was on a tearful Duncan Jones (formerly Zowie Bowie) for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for the sci-fi mystery

And Up! flew away with both Best Animated Film and Best Music BAFTAs.