Alchemical Dreamland

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The fourth Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival returns to Hawick from April 3-6, with this year’s theme, DreamLand.

Organisers hope to transform the town with more than 100 film screenings, special events and installations, showcasing local talent beside work from around the world.

More than 30 filmmakers have confirmed their attendance for 2014, and of the 100 films to be screened over the long weekend, 85 are world, European, UK or Scottish premieres. Creative director Richard Ashrowan writes: “Alchemy is known for being a very intimate and friendly festival, where audiences and filmmakers really do get to meet, where real discussions happen and creative debate flourishes.”

The programme highlights Esther Johnson’s commissioned film, The Sun is but a Morning Star, which invited residents of Hawick to contribute their personal thoughts and feelings about independence, in all senses of the word, and what an ideal future might look like.

The artist was chosen following her 2013 film, It’s Quicker By Hearse – The Tale of the Petitioning Housewife, the Protesting Schoolboy and the Campaign Trail Student.

The film tells the story of Hawick resident Madge Elliot, her 11-year-old son, a piper, and a university student – President of the Railway Society. In 1968, they marched to Downing Street on behalf of the community to protest against the closure of the Waverley rail line. The two films will be screened as a double bill.

A second highlight this year will be (Wh)ere Land: a night time walk in Wilton Lodge Park, when participants will be given hand-held projectors to interact with paper sculptures, as part of the festival’s focus on the natural world as a place of dreams.

Another showing, Ettrick Dreaming, is the result of six artists’ residencies in October 2013, in which they explored the landscapes, life, culture and people of the Ettrick Valley, allowing local residents to see this familiar place in a new way.

Ten moving image installations will also inhabit empty shops, unused offices and ex-industrial spaces throughout the town, as well as Alchemy’s travelling horsebox gallery.

Pupils from local schools will also have an opportunity to get involved, with Alchemy’s Introduction to Filmmaking. The workshop will teach young people to express themselves through everything from cat videos to music videos, to more artistically-driven short films. A symposium will take place at the start of the festival, aimed at both aspiring and established filmmakers or artists working with the moving image.

Mr Ashrowan, a Borders-based video artist, said: “Alchemy shows a huge selection of cutting-edge work, which attracts people from all over the world.

“It is Scotland’s only festival to focus on experimental film and artists’ moving image, offering Borderers a fantastic opportunity to experience something really different, and of international calibre, on their doorstep. We’re very much looking forward to transforming the town into a place of dreams for locals and visitors alike.”

The 2014 programme is available from Heart of Hawick’s Tower Mill or online at www.alchemyfilmfestival.org.uk. Tickets cost from £4.