Article: Borderlines Film Festival returns with a cinema-only festival

Supported by the BFI, awarding National Lottery funding, Borderlines Film Festival returns to 22 venues and cinema screens across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Malvern, and the Welsh Marches in its 21st consecutive edition.

Taking place within its usual early spring slot, the festival will show 65 features – including a large proportion of previews – with additional events over 17 days, opening on Friday 3 March. There will be no online programme this time round.

The funding, with additional support from the Elmley Foundation and Hereford City Council, will ensure that Borderlines, the UK’s largest rural film festival, returns to its core venues: The Courtyard Hereford, Malvern Theatres, Ludlow Assembly Rooms, Kinokulture in Oswestry, Bromyard’s Conquest Theatre, Presteigne Screen, Booth’s Bookshop Cinema in Hay and village halls and community centres in the Flicks in the Sticks network, many of which are located within remote communities in this predominantly rural area. 

Captioned screenings available

This year, the focus is on accessibility, and Borderlines venues will be increasing the number of screenings with audio description and captioning for D/deaf audiences. There will also be a number of relaxed screenings and BSL interpretation for speakers.

Says Naomi Vera-Sanso, the Festival Director said, “The festival has always catered for rural audiences, who for one reason or another, have difficulties with access to their nearest cinema. Now, by making more captioned screenings available, we want to remove obstacles to attendance so that Borderlines is open to an even wider range of the public.” 

“Thank you to everyone who plays the National Lottery, we wouldn’t be able to put on a film festival of this scale without you.”

Diverse range of films

Borderlines 2023 is again programmed by the Independent Cinema Office. The quality and range of the films the Festival is able to offer audiences who are based far from metropolitan centres reflects this; our programmers travel to international film festivals across Europe throughout the year. 

Award-winning films included in the festival are the 2022 winners of the Palme d’Or, Triangle of Sadness, the joint Jury Prize winners, EO and The Eight Mountains and the Queer Palme, Joyland,  at Cannes; 1976, the Sutherland Prize-winner for Best First Feature at the BFI London Film Festival 2022; the winners of the Golden Lion, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, and Special Jury Prize, No Bears, at Venice Film Festival 2022;and Leonor Will Never Die, winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Prize at Sundance. 

Joyland from Pakistan and EO from Poland, as well as South Korean Decision to LeaveThe Blue Caftan from Morocco, Close from Belgium, Corsage from Austria and Irish-language The Quiet Girl are shortlisted for International Feature Academy Awards while, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Moonage Daydream and Hidden Letters are up for the Documentary Feature Academy Awards. 

The Eight MountainsLeonor and The Blue Caftan are screening as previews at Borderlines, prior to their UK cinema release dates, alongside 21 other titles.

Aftersun, the highly-acclaimed debut feature of Charlotte Wells, has won many awards, including 6 British Independent Film Awards. Cinematographer Gregory Oke, the recipient of one of these, will attend the festival to introduce two screenings of the film. Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean, another first feature in the Borderlines programme, also won multiple BIFAs. In all, 25 films in the programme are directed and/or written by women.

Other titles tipped for BAFTA and/or Oscar success this year include The WhaleWomen TalkingThe Son (Florian Zeller’s follow-up to The Father), Living and The Banshees of Inisherin.
With so many films to choose from the Festival groups films that are connected by content, theme or nationality to provide pathways through the programme and to pick up on the zeitgeist and issues in contemporary cinema. 

Four films in the programme highlight ways in which women have ‘talked back’, refusing to remain silent and embrace the often debilitating norms that have been traditionally foisted on them. Three young women, two sixth-form students and a local artist have helped us put together a strand called TALKING BACK. 

Three powerful documentaries, All The Beauty And The Bloodshed an unconventional biopic of artist and campaigner Nan Goldin, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power, a radical film essay that questions filmmaking conventions that reinforce gender stereotypes, Hidden Letters, revealing the hidden female Chinese script, Nushu, are set against the refreshingly militant debate by women in a fictional closed Mennonite community in Women Talking

Other themes explore ties between parents and children, and how we connect to nature and the landscape. The Blue CaftanJoyland and Blue Jean make up an interesting trio of LGBTQ+ films from countries and cultures poles apart where being openly gay is a serious and dangerous challenge.

The Festival brings a fresh opportunity to dive into South American cinema with five contemporary titles. The petrifying grasp of Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship 1976 is set against the fervour of recent mass protest in the same nation as My Imaginary Country. Extreme poverty and the drug world collide in Charcoal from Brazil. Then Utama (Bolivia) and The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future (Chile) convey the threat of pollution and climate change in very different ways. 

Film Noir enthusiasts will be blessed with an exceptionally rare opportunity to see two atmospheric 1950s Argentinian Film Noirs, in partnership with Film Noir UK, The Bitter Stems and The Black VampireIn tribute to one of France’s greatest directors Jean Luc Godard who died in September 2022 two of his early period films Alphaville and Pierrot le Fou will be screened at Malvern and The Courtyard, Hereford.

For 2023, Borderlines further develops its close ties with Gypsy, Romani and Traveller communities through the Hereford-based online and print magazine Travellers’ TimesHow Far the Stars comes to us from the recent Ake Dikhea? Roma Film Festival in Berlin. The documentary focuses on a talented Roma young guitarist who fuses modern jazz and traditional Roma music. Our second feature is a documentary centred in the UK, Leaving to Remain is a heart-warming positive story of 3 Roma immigrants to the UK. Both features will be supported by short films and presented by Jake Bowers, Romani journalist and filmmaker.

The Festival will resume its collaboration with South West Silents with a screening of Erich von Stroheim’s 1922 extravaganza Foolish Wives, shot in Hollywood but set in the Riveria, the first one-million dollar movie. Australian accompanist Meg Morley will provide live music for the screening at Ludlow Assembly Rooms as well as for Au Bonheur des Dames, made in 1930 and set in a Parisian department store, with the film showing at Malvern Theatres.

The Open Screen event, initiated by the festival five years ago, provides a cinema showcase of short films made by a diversity of filmmakers within the area, many of whom have never seen their work projected on a big screen before. Another feature of the event is the feedback offered by peers and festival audiences to the filmmakers, who also relish the opportunity to network through a Talent Mixer supported by BFI Network Midlands. 

The Rural Media Charity’s presence is a continuum at the Festival year on year. 2023 highlights their collaboration with Pentabus Theatre with a bravura monologue, scripted and performed by Florence Espeut-Nickless in the role of a feisty teenage girl who dreams of fame and glamour but undergoes multiple abuses of power in her quest. 

The festival brochure with details of the whole programme will be available to download from the Borderlines website from the fourth week of January. Printed copies will be posted to mailing list subscribers [sign up at] and will also be distributed to outlets across the area covered by Borderlines.

Tickets and passes for the Festival go on sale from 10am on Friday 27 January through

+ Borderlines Film Festival

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