The Borders town of Hawick is establishing itself as a centre for artists’ film as Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival moves into its 13th year. The 2023 festival, which is directed by Rachael Disbury, promises a programme of work from Scotland and around the world, with screenings, performances, events and installations which blur the boundaries between cinema and visual art. Susan Mansfield selects some highlights.
Maxime Jean-Baptiste, ‘To Yield’
The work of French Guianese filmmaker Maxime Jean-Baptiste explores the past, forms of re-enactment and embodied memory. A newly commissioned work, ‘To Yield’, follows ‘Between nothingness and infinity I began to weep’, a multimedia portrait of his teenage cousin Lucas who was murdered a decade ago in French Guiana. ‘To Yield’ is a multimedia performance exploring the darkness of a cinema just before the film begins, in which memories and pain accumulate.
After taking part in a six month residency with Alchemy in 2022, Parks presents a suite of four short films. While in Hawick, she undertook research, interviews, sound recording and filming along the Teviot and Tweed rivers, looking at the area’s past involvement in the textile industry. The four films explore the complex, contradictory and sometimes comical relationship between humans, plants and animals, from a Victorian lady botanist in the Borders to the annual Burryman’s Parade in South Queensferry and the work of a local community vegetable garden.
Calligraphic Landscapes: Letters Across Wind and Water
The correspondence between Scottish and Puerto Rico calligraphers is one of the inspirations for this film and performance event which brings together work from both countries. ‘Assimilate and Destroy I’, a film by Puerto Rican artist and filmmaker Sofía Gallisá Muriente, begins and ends the event which also includes ‘a crossing (1698/2003)’ by Glasgow-based Puetro Rican artist Emilia Beatriz, with Kiera Coward-Deyell and Andrés Nieves, who also perform live. The film explores colonial and military occupation on Vieques, an island east of Puerto Rico, and military traces which linger at Cape Wrath, Scotland.
George Finlay Ramsay
Dundee-born artist George Finlay Ramsay is from a theatre background, having trained at the Jacques Lecoq school in Paris, but describes his practice now as working with poetry, ritual and analogue film-making. He has been shortlisted for the Margaret Tait Award 2023. ‘Family Fugue’, presented in ‘Certain and True It Is’, a double bill with Oreet Ashery’s Jerusalem-based film ‘Selfish Road’, explores the way identity is inherited and imagined, dressed up and challenged. Expect a dose of wry humour and a baroque harpsichord soundtrack.
Natasha Thembiso Ruwona
The influential Scottish-Ghanaian artist Maud Sulter is the subject of ‘Maud’, by Scottish-Zimbabwean artist and filmmaker Natasha Thembiso Ruwona, celebrating Sulter through the conversations with other black artists in Scotland. Ruwona’s exhibition, ‘What is held (between waters)’ is a result of the artist’s research project with Alchemy, begun in 2020 and resulting in a new moving image work which addresses Hawick-raised Tom Jenkins (1797-1859), Britain’s first black schoolteacher, and muses on water as a vehicle to carry history.
27th -30th April, in the Heart of Hawick Arts Centre and neighbouring venues, for more information visit www.alchemyfilmandarts.org.uk