Borderlines Film Festival runs across the region from Februray 24 to March 12.
We caught up with Independent Cinema Office programmer Jonny Courtney (who handpicked the 80+ films that'll screen at this year's festival) to find out which 10 titles he tips as 'must-not miss'.
Download the full programme here.
Friday, March 10 at 8.15pm | Saturday, March 11 at 8pm | Sunday, March 12 at 3.30pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford.
One of the films of the year, Moonlight is a revelation. Directed by Barry Jenkins, it tells its beautiful, vital and devastating story in three acts.
Meet Little (Alex Hibbert), a young African-American boy in Miami who lives with his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) and deals with his frequent victimisation at school by befriending local drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Revisit him as teenager Chiron (Ashton Sanders), who lashes out when he becomes unable to cope; and finally as Black (Trevante Rhodes), an adult whose hardened exterior belies his extreme vulnerability and who dreams of reconnecting with childhood friend Kevin (André Holland).
Artistically striking and viscerally powerful, Moonlight is a breathtaking achievement, an unforgettable film and feels like a landmark in the portrayal of blackness (especially black gay masculinity) onscreen – a story you haven’t seen before, at least not like this.
Friday, Feb 24 at 4.30pm, Saturday, Feb 25 at 1.30pm, Sunday, March 26 at 4pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Sunday, March 5 at 7.45pm, Thursday, March 9 at 2pm @ Malvern Theatres, Worcestershire
Monday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 8 at 7.30pm @ kinokulture cinema, Oswestry
German filmmaker Maren Ade's (Everyone Else) astonishing Toni Erdmann was hailed as one of the standout films of Cannes in 2016, where it premiered in Competition (the first German film to debut there in 10 years) and won the FIPRESCI Best Film award. It's a broad and outrageously funny comedy about the relationship between a father and daughter.
Peter Simonischek is Winifried, a divorced teacher with a baffling penchant for wacky humour; frequently donning comedy wigs and false teeth. His daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) – a sleek oil company executive – is less amused by such jokes; but Winifried suspects she is unhappy and so kindly decides to show up at her offices in a new guise: that of 'Toni Erdmann', to help out. A highly original and hilarious arthouse comedy, it's been selected as Germany's 2017 Oscar entry.
Sunday, Feb 26 at 7.45pm, Monday, March 27 at 7.30pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu's Graduation screened in Competition at Cannes last year, where it won him Best Director (shared with Olivier Assayas). It's as brilliantly constructed as you’d expect from the man who took home the Palme d’Or in 2007 for the searing pregnancy drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
The story depicts a doctor in a small Romanian town and the moral complexities of the decisions he makes to provide a better life for his daughter. As the film progresses, the consequences of these decisions slowly unravel to reveal the shifty, shabby layers of corruption and ensuing shame still present in Romanian society, as citizens compromise on ethics in the (understandable) hopes of gaining something better for themselves, or in this case, their loved ones.
It’s masterful stuff, superbly made, and gives you the rewarding sense of watching a director in complete command of his craft.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Friday, Feb 24 at 2pm, Saturday, Feb 25 at 11.15am, Sunday, Feb 26 at 7.30pm, Monday, Feb 27 at 4.45pm, Tuesday, Feb 28 @ 5pm, Thursday, March 2 at 2.15pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Friday, Feb 24 at 7.30pm, Saturday, Feb 25 at 1.30pm, Monday, Feb 27 at 7.30pm @ kinokulture cinema, Oswestry
Fans of writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's two previous features, the perfectly pitched dramas You Can Count on Me (2000) and Margaret (2011), will be thrilled by the shattering, superlative Manchester by the Sea. Casey Affleck stars as Lee, a solitary Boston janitor who after a family tragedy, returns to his North Shore hometown to visit his nephew. There, he must take on new responsibilities while coming back into contact with his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and confronting the weight of the past.
As with his previous films, Manchester by the Sea evinces Lonergan's eye for comedy amidst tragedy, a sprawling interest in an array of supporting characters and most of all an investigation into what constitutes the texture of real life, as well as brilliant performances. It’s also perhaps his most fully realised film to date, offering us a glimpse into a near complete, emotionally overwhelming world.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO
Friday, March 10 at 6pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, award-winning filmmaker Raoul Peck (Murder in Pacot, Lumumba)’s stunning cinema essay – stirring and timely – utilises the words of author and thinker James Baldwin and expands upon a book he planned, but never wrote: Remember This House, a radical narrative of race in America focusing on the lives and assassinations of Baldwin’s friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers.
Anchored in these lives, Baldwin’s own and the broader mid-20th century Civil Rights movement, it’s also very profound on the contemporary black experience; with a powerful mosaic of interviews, music, archive footage and imagery laying bare the continuing violence and inequality faced by African-Americans.
Friday, Feb 24 at 7.45pm, Sunday, Feb 26 at 7.45pm, Monday, Feb 27 at 4.30pm, Tuesday, Feb 28 at 10.30am, Wednesday, March 1 at 7.45pm, Thursday, March 2 at 2pm @ Malvern Theatres, Worcestershire
Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 at 7.30pm, Wednesday, March 8 at 1.30pm @ kinokulture cinema, Oswestry
Friday, March 3 at 5pm, Saturday, March 4 at 11.30am, Sunday, March 5 at 7.45pm, Monday, March 6 at 2pm, Tuesday, March 7 @ 11am, Wednesday, March 8 12pm @ The Courtyard Hereford
Oscar-winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) may well win a second Academy Award for her virtuosic performance as Jackie Kennedy in acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s (No,, Neruda) daring, protean study of the former First Lady in the days following her husband’s assassination in 1963; one of the most extraordinary and shocking events of the 20th century.
She plays Jackie to show how Jackie played herself: as a controlling, very private woman who fully understood the business of mythmaking and helped propagate Camelot’s image of youth, beauty and grace. But after JFK’s brutal murder she must cope with overwhelming trauma, comfort her children, lead a nation to grieve and define her family’s legacy, all while being watched by millions. Eschewing genre tropes, Jackie is an intimate, visionary and startlingly eerie film documenting one of the most epoch-making incidents in American history, as well as one of its most complex and elusive characters.
Monday, Feb 27 at 7.45pm, Tuesday, Feb 28 at 1.45pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Thursday, March 2 at 7.30pm @ kinokulture cinema, Oswestry
New from celebrated Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi is The Salesman, which screened in Competition at Cannes, winning awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor (for male lead Shahab Hosseini). It covers similar territory to Farhadi's last two films, the acclaimed A Separation and The Past, examining as it does the strained relationship of a middle-class married couple, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti, a long-time collaborator with Farhadi) and Emad (Hosseini).
Emad is a teacher and Rana his stay-at-home wife. In their spare time, they're also part of a theatre group, working on a production of Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' in which they play Miller's careworn Willy Loman and his wife, Linda. Preparations for the play are going well until Rana and Emad suffer a disturbing domestic incident which triggers emotional fault lines across their marriage. Exploring challenging questions of morality and retribution, The Salesman is beautifully observed, painstakingly crafted drama.
Sunday, March 5 at 7pm @ Booth’s Bookshop Cinema, Hay-on-Wye
Tuesday, March 7 at 7.30pm, Wednesday, March 8 at 4.45pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook's (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Stoker) erotic psychological thriller – adapted from Sarah Waters' historical novel Fingersmith – screened to great acclaim in Competition at Cannes in 2016. It relocates Waters' story from Victorian Britain to 1930s Korea during Japanese colonial rule. New girl Sookee (Kim Tae-ri) is hired as handmaiden to Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee), who lives on a rural estate with her domineering uncle Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong). But Sookee has a secret: she was recruited to carry out a devilish plan of robbery, seduction and imprisonment which seems set to succeed, until she and Lady Hideko fall prey to unexpected emotions.
The Handmaiden's simmering exploration of lesbian sexuality, sublime set design and sensational plot twists are more than met by its cast, who deliver performances of genuine emotional power. This is wildly entertaining, consummate filmmaking from Chan-wook.
LA LA LAND
Friday, Feb 24 at 7.45pm, Saturday, Feb 25 at 7.30pm, Sunday, Feb 26 at 11am, Monday, Feb 27 at 2pm, Tuesday, Feb 28 at 8pm, Wednesday, March 1 at 2pm, Thursday, March 2 at 5.30pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Friday, March 10 at 7.30pm, Saturday, March 11 at 7.30pm @ kinokulture cinema, Oswestry
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone give terrific performances in Whiplash director Damien Chazelle's beguiling musical romance, La La Land. The setting is contemporary Hollywood, the tone light and airy, the story simple, but lent immense verve by the style of Chazelle's direction and the chemistry and sheer charisma supplied by Stone and Gosling, who radiate charm, sincerity and vulnerability as they open up to each other. They play wannabe movie star Mia and pianist Seb, both hobbled by frustrated ambition when they meet and fall in love. But success, when it finally arrives, comes at a personal cost.
Rejecting cynicism in favour of sweet-natured, open-hearted romance and full of smartly choreographed musical numbers performed with heartfelt grace by its stars, Chazelle's musical is being hailed a masterpiece – a contemporary Singin' in the Rain – and a hot tip for awards season.
THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI
Monday, March 6 at 7.45pm, Tuesday, March 7 at 5.45pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Un Certain Regard winner at Cannes and Finland's Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film, director and screenwriter Juho Kuosmanen's irresistible sports biopic is inspired by the real-life showdown between Finnish boxer Olli Mäki (Jarkko Lahti) and American champion Davey Moore in 1962 Helsinki.
Shot in black and white with scrupulous period detail, it depicts Olli as a wistful, vulnerable small-town boy, whose innocence is at odds with the hyperbolic showmanship of his bombastic manager Elis (Eero Milonoff). All he has to do is lose weight to qualify and concentrate on his training, but there's just one problem: he's falling in love.
Full of trenchant commentary about the sports and media industries and their symbiotic relationship, which tends to pressurise and corrupt competitors, the film is also a charming and comedic depiction of Finland's excitement about its appearance on the world stage and a startlingly sweet romance.
Friday, March 10 at 1.15pm, Saturday, March 11 at 5.45pm, Sunday, March 12 at 1.15pm @ The Courtyard, Hereford
Certain Women sees a return to form from American Indie auteur Kelly Reichardt in this acutely observed triptych of female character studies. The film explores the lives of three women in small town, mid-West America who are each experiencing moments of personal introspection in their lives. A world-weary lawyer (Laura Dern), a misunderstood mother (Michelle Williams) and a lonely ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) with a misplaced love for her travelling local authority teacher (Kristen Stewart) form the tapestry of this film, as each of their narratives reverberate and intersect with one another, with fleeting, deep resonance.
In Reichardt’s customary slow-burning style, the film allows each character the space to suffer and ultimately to expand. Though not a Western as we know it, Certain Women is a film about the personal frontiers we face throughout our lives.
What you need to know about Borderlines Film Festival 2017
One of the UK's biggest rural film festivals, Borderlines is spread across Herefordshire, Shropshire, the Marches and Malvern.
Running from February 24 to March 12, the 2017 line-up includes 28 films shown ahead of their UK release; pop up screenings in Hereford city centre; a celebration of the F-Rating and international work of female directors; the chance to see rarely screened silent films in a cinema setting; and, in the shadow of Fidel Castro's death, a timely strand exploring the complex cultural and political identity of Cuba.
Venues range from village halls on country lanes to the sumptous surroundings of Malvern Theatres. Ludlow Assembly Rooms will devote an entire weekend (Friday March 3 to Sunday, March 5) to film, showing Chinese-American animation Rock Dog, acclaimed dark British drama Lady Macbeth and an exclusive performance of 60s classic Blow-Up, introduced by the ghost writer of David Hemmings’ autobiography Peter Burden.
A highlight of the rural festival, one of the biggest in the UK, is its run of previews - titles we'll get to see ahead of their UK release. The previews now make up an one third of the programme and include brand new films like Park Chan-wook’s erotic psychological thriller The Handmaiden, which transposes Sarah Water’s historical novel Fingersmith from Victorian Britain to 1930s Korea, and British World War 2 drama Their Finest, starring Gemma Arterton as a script-writer for propaganda films and Bill Nighy as a fading matinee idol.
The previews are complemented by strong awards contenders including open-hearted musical La La Land, which has already won 6 Golden Globes and secured 11 Bafta nominations, the understated Manchester By the Sea, starring Casey Affleck as a dour janitor with a suppressed past, and Jackie, a portrait of the former First Lady Jackie Kennedy in her darkest hour by Chilean director Pablo Larraín that moves right away from biopic conventions.
Tickets are on sale via The Courtyard in Hereford on 01432 340555.
Herefordshire Live is a co-sponsor of Borderlines Film Festival 2017.
This article was originally published in January 2017