Borderlines Film Festival: tending cinema in the Marches

From Friday 23 February to Sunday 11 March 2018 Borderlines Film Festival will bring 80 films and events to 26 venues across four counties in Herefordshire, Shropshire Worcestershire and Powys. Over that 17-day period, it is set to deliver another rich and varied programme in venues that range from large arts centres, assembly rooms, community cinemas, village halls and pop-ups. It will incorporate 260 screenings, more than ever before, with a 15% increase from last year.

In 2017, its 15th year, Borderlines achieved record attendances of 19,319. Funders and distributors alike have come to recognise the value and prestige of this event. It brings world-class cinema that would normally only screen in London or other metropolitan centres to one of the most rural and isolated parts of the UK. Furthermore, it continues to build up appreciative and discerning audiences who turn out in force to watch and absorb these films.

Festival Director Naomi Vera-Sanso said: ‘‘The Festival consolidates and grows organically year on year. Last year Malvern Theatres took part in Borderlines for the first time. This year we are expanding our programme there and spreading into the Forum, its large auditorium, for some screenings. The Conquest Theatre in Bromyard has upped the number of its shows from three to seven: it wants to really ‘do’ the festival this year.”

The Independent Cinema Office will programme the festival for the sixth year running. The final tally of previews, films screening at the festival before their UK release date, is predicted to rise to 30. They include British director Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, a tough, cinematic tour-de-force with a performance from Joaquin Phoenix that won the Best Actor award (as well as Best Screenplay) at Cannes this year.

120 Beats Per Minute is an exhilarating and profoundly moving story of AIDS activism in France in the 1980s. Since winning the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, it has collected a string of 5 star reviews. Also previewing at Borderlines are Sweet Country, a haunting and powerful western set in the Australian outback from Aboriginal director and cinematographer Warwick Thornton, and Zama, a mesmerising, dreamlike period piece from Argentina directed by Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman).

For the first time in its history, Borderlines will open with a Gala Screening of The Square, the savagely funny satire of the art world by Swedish director Ruben Östlund, at The Courtyard Hereford. The Square won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2017 and releases in the UK in mid-March.

Serious awards contenders like Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, with Frances McDormand’s resilient performance as a hard-bitten, vengeful mother tipped for Best Actress, are also components of the programme. Daniel Day-Lewis’ final screen performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is already winning plaudits, as is Gary Oldman’s transformation in Darkest Hour, Joe Wright’s (Atonement) Churchill biopic.

For 2018, Borderlines has partnered with Film Africa, the Royal African Society’s annual film festival, to bring exciting new titles from across the continent exclusively to Borderlines. In 2017, Film Africa focused on women’s stories, a testament to the growing presence of the female voice in African Cinema.

As well as The Wound from South Africa, which sets up a tense dramatic conflict against the background of Xhosa male initiation rituals, Borderlines will be showing I Still Hide to Smoke, a film about the liberating intimacy of the hamman from Algerian director Rayhana, Winnie, a documentary about the controversial figure of Winnie Mandela from Pascale Lamche and Félicité, centred around a woman singer in a Kinshasa night spot.

Borderlines continues to adopt the F-Rated standard, pioneered by FilmBath, to promote the visibility of films that have been directed or written by women. Approximately one third of the films in the programme are F-Rated with 11 qualifying as triple-F-rated (featuring significant women characters on screen). These include Lady Bird, actor Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed directorial debut and Nora Twomey’s animated feature The Breadwinner about a young girl living in Afghanistan under Taliban rule

International Women’s Day on 8 March sees bespoke programming of four F-rated films through the day in the Studio at The Courtyard in Hereford. Three of them, the documentary about Nepalese circus artists, survivors of child trafficking, Even When I Fall (an exclusive preview, the first in the UK), Jeune Femme, and Stéphane Brizé’s A Woman’s Life, are triple F-rated.

A special strand curated by broadcaster and festival patron Francine Stock around the preview of the Jean-Luc Godard biopic Redoutable by Michel
Hazanavicius, part-pastiche, part-tribute, focuses on the 50th anniversary of May 1968, when a series of demonstrations and protests brought France to a standstill, and changed the wider cultural and social landscape for decades to come. We’ll be screening Godard’s La Chinoise, with further titles to be announced.

Looking back in cinema history and after the hugely successful Tarkovsky season in 2016, Borderlines 2018 hosts an Ingmar Bergman retrospective, with Wild Strawberries, Persona, Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal alongside the Swedish auteur’s sublime and joyful version of The Magic Flute.

Two neglected silent classics resurface at the festival in a second collaboration with Bristol-based South West Silents. The 1919 revenge drama Behind the Door, described by the BFI as ‘the holy grail of (graphic) silent horror films’ will screen at The Courtyard Hereford with live accompaniment by Stephen Horne. Conan Doyle-scripted The Lost World (1925), the precursor for King Kong and Jurassic Park, plays at both The Courtyard and Ludlow Assembly Rooms.

Films from far-off places have always proved popular at Borderlines. Three outstanding films selected from WOW Film Tales of the Silk Road season will follow the ancient trade network of the Silk Road, from China, through Mongolia and Central Asia to the Mediterranean.

As ever, a strong British rural theme runs through the programme from Clio Barnard’s latest Dark River, in which a sombre family dispute over tenancy set on the Yorkshire moors unleashes painful ghosts, to BIFA-award-winning gay love story God’s Own Country. Paul Wright’s (For Those in Peril) Arcadia is a dense, poetic mash-up of dazzling footage from the BFI National Archive with an expressive score from Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp).

Local production company Catcher Media’s new documentary Stories from the Hop Yards is inspired by the fabulous rediscovered archive of photographer Derek Evans and brims with old photos, films and newly recorded interviews from across the region while MACE (Media Archive for Central England) will be curating a package of local archive footage.

The Rural Media Company resumes its long-standing connection with Borderlines with the premiere of a new film about travellers as well as a showcase of work by young people taking part in the BFI Film Academy and students on Hereford College of Arts’ short film course. Students from the Art College and from Hereford Sixth Form College will be curating and presenting a programme of shorts.

In new ventures, Hereford’s Royal National College for the Blind will celebrate the college’s 40th anniversary in Hereford by showing the documentary Notes on Blindness (separate audio-described and standard performances). These screenings will highlight its importance as the UK’s leading specialist residential college of further education for people with a visual impairment.

And Borderlines will be staging two outdoor cinema experiences – with food, drinks, and fire pits on hand – at the Left Bank, a convivial and atmospheric venue on the banks of the River Wye. Titles will be confirmed but are expected to include the documentary Buena Vista Social Club: Adios and another music film.

Invited guests to Borderlines include director Saul Dibb (Journey’s End), Portishead’s Adrian Utley (score, Arcadia) and Adrian Cooper (producer, Arcadia); directors Kate McLarnon, Sky Neal (Even When I Fall), Rungano Nyoni (I Am Not a Witch) and Pascale Lamche (Winnie). Further guests will be revealed alongside the full programme in January.

The full programme will be announced on Friday 19 January when the Central Box Office at The Courtyard in Hereford opens for business at 10.00am.