Alchemy festival set to make film gold in Hawick

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Over 100 films screened over four days, plus 12 artists’ installations and over 60 filmmakers will make Hawick the place to be later this month.

For over the four days from Thursday, April 16 to Sunday, April 19, the Heart of Hawick centre in the town’s Tower Mill will be the hub for the fifth Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival.

And this year promises another magical mix of feature films, short film screenings and artists’ installations, with the 2015 exploring the theme of ‘Spiritus Mundi’, a historical term for the ‘World Soul’, relating to a spirit of universality, internationalism and underlying unity.

Alchemy is Scotland’s only international festival of experimental film and artists’ moving image, and in it’s brief existence has grown from just 32 film submissions in its first year to more than 730 for 2015.

The vibrant international programme includes feature films, experimental shorts, video art installations and live multi-media performances at various venues in Hawick, screening around 120 films, most of which are World, UK or Scottish premieres.

“We have built a strong international profile and over 60 filmmakers from around the world have confirmed their attendance this year,” said the festival’s creative director, Richard Ashrowan, this week.

“The event has generally grown and there is no other comparable festival in the UK, never mind Scotland. You have film festivals in Edinburgh and Glasgow but they go for a much broader reach.

“But when it comes to artists’ and experimental film, Alchemy is the leading such event in the UK.”

Richard says 45% of festival audiences are from the local population and he is confident the majority of main auditorium screenings this year will sell out.

“And one of our most exciting elements is our community film-making inititative in which we offer training to 35 local people in the skills of film-making.

“At this year’s festival we will be screening 16 of those films, but we actually got far more than we can screen in one session, so will be having a second screening in June, which is fantastic.”

Selected highlights of the 2015 programme include the world premiere of Ettrick (Jacques Perconte, France), in a special screening in Johnstons of Elgin.

The film was made during several trips the filmmaker made to the Borders, exploring its landscape and woollen mill history, all rendered in an impressionistic arc of abstract colour and movement.

There will also be the Scottish premiere of Field of Dogs, in which Polish director Lech Majewski presents a sumptuously shot exploration of loss and spiritual redemption.

It is set in 2010, when the Polish president, Lech Kaczynski, died in a plane crash with all 96 people on board. This context of national tragedy is mirrored in the personal tragedy of loss experienced by a former professor, who enters into a dark and hallucinatory journey toward a rediscovery of light and meaning.

There will also be a question answer session with the director present.

Light Matters sees the Scottish premiere of two films by Joost Rekveld and again there will be a question and answer session with the director present.

Guy Sherwin was one of the key figures within the radical London Film-Makers’ Cooperative in the 1970s and now works in collaboration with his partner Lynn Loo on performances of live cinema.

They explore projection as a live event using several projectors, often shifting image-size, focus or position during projection.

Guy will perform a range of new works alongside his seminal Man with Mirror performance.

Alchemy also presents the UK premiere of Paul Sharits, a new documentary about the iconic experimental 1960s filmmaker by Francois Miron (Canada), along with a special 16mm screening of one of Sharits’ most important works.

At the festival’s Filmmaking Symposium, there will be a range of internationally recognised speakers closely involved in the making, funding and distribution of experimental film and artists’ moving images.

They include representatives from Lux Scotland, Edinburgh Internationall Film Festival, Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, Rotterdam Internationall Film Festival and The Scottish Film Talent Network.

Alchemy will also be showing eight short film programmes. One of the highlights is the Scottish premiere of No More by Mairéad McClean, a deeply poignant experimental film which explores her own father’s internment in Northern Ireland.

In Transmutations the festival presents a specially curated programme of films exploring poetry on film, co-curated with Zata Kitowski of Poetry Film.

Artist Installations encompasses 12 artists’ moving image installations within empty shops, ex-industrial and empty office spaces around Hawick. The festival is a partnership project between Alchemy Film & Arts, a registered Scottish charity, and Heart of Hawick, the award winning arts and culture venue run by Scottish Borders Council.

Full programme including ticket details online at