Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival announces its programme
The Hawick-based festival goes into its seventh year
What is it about modestly-sized rural towns that makes them good places for film festivals? Telluride, Karlovy Vary, Hawick: they all host major celebrations of screened work. Hawick in the Borders is the home of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, now seven years old and bigger than ever, with 120 films, 24 of them world premieres, and 12 moving image installations. Alchemy's creative director Richard Ashrowan is especially proud that the festival is showing around 20 films made by the Borders-based filmmakers group Moving Image Makers Collective.
Highlights of Alchemy include a tribute to a recently deceased master, and a celebration of one of Scotland's brightest young artists. Timothy Neat's 1989 film Play Me Something stars the late John Berger as a man in an airport lounge in Barra telling a story to a bunch of people including characters played by Tilda Swinton and poet Hamish Henderson. Berger, who died last month, was one of the greatest writers and thinkers of our time, and a gifted and generous collaborator with filmmakers such as Neat, Mike Dibb and Alain Tanner. Berger and Dibb's classic 1972 BBC series Ways of Seeing has lasted a lot better than most documentaries from the period, not just because of Berger's gimlet-eyed stare into the camera but also for its punkishly low production values and its air of being an orientation session for a better tomorrow. Timothy Neat will be present for a Q&A.
Rachel Maclean's It's What Inside That Counts gets its Scottish premiere at Alchemy, having been previously seen at HOME, Manchester and Tate Britain. Maclean, who won the Margaret Tait Award in 2013, is noted for her hallucinogenic and darkly funny explorations of national identity. She's working on a new film commission, curated by Alchemy and inspired by Venice, and has been selected to represent Scotland at the 2017 Venice Biennale. She talks about her work to Alchemy's creative director in a Q&A. As part of Maclean's attendance at the Biennale, a professional development programme is giving young Scottish artist Catrina Barquist a chance to live and work in Venice, and a fundraiser for Barquist is being held in advance of the festival, on Fri 17 Feb at Heart of Hawick.
Other highlights include the UK premiere of Karolina Bregula's surrealist opera-musical The Tower, which tells the story of a group of well-meaning social activists who try to solve the world's problems by building an enormous tower made of sugar. (Such metaphor. Many applicable.) Its deadpan wit is set to music by Glasgow-based Polish composer Ela Orleans. British artist Andrew Kötting leads an eight-mile procession towards the Hermitage Castle which culminates in a screening of his 2016 film Edith Walks.
The closing film, Mike Hoolboom's Incident Reports, is an exploration of gender, identity and the city of Toronto, in which the narrator falls in love with his therapist and it all gets mixed up with a naked bike ride and massed public singing of Culture Club songs. In between, there are films and short films from international filmmakers, installations and, as in previous years, an artists' symposium. The theme for 2017 is Alchemical Visions, exploring the connections between practice and theory in relation to different filmmakers' transformational strategies.
The Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival takes place in Hawick from Thu 2–Mon 6 Mar 2017.