Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival's Sixth Edition

Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival will mark its sixth edition this year from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 April in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

An international festival of experimental film and artists’ moving image, the festival was initiated in 2010 and is run as a partnership project between Alchemy Film & Arts and Heart of Hawick.

We found out more from festival Creative Director Richard Ashrowan

Programme Cover. Image: Ben Balcom 

Tell us a bit about Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival?

Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival is a four-day celebration of the most inventive and thought provoking experimental film and artists’ moving image of 2016, now heading for its sixth edition. We’ll be showing 124 films from 26 countries across four days, including 13 Scottish productions, several international feature premieres, experimental shorts, video art, and live cinema performances. Over the last few years, the festival has really grown in terms of its international profile, its influence and its audience, and attracts UK premiere screenings from major international artists and filmmakers. Over 50 filmmakers will be visiting the festival this year. It is a non-competitive festival; there are no awards, and it is very much focussed on an in-depth exploratory experience of artists’ film.

The 2016 theme is ‘Altered State’, what does this mean for the festival?

The 'Altered State’ is an idea containing a host of meanings, from the overtly political to the deeply personal. in fact, it lies at the very heart of experimental film practice: in its inherent ambition to challenge, to question, and to alter the state of things. It is the antithesis of stasis, an antidote to passive entertainment, and a form of intellectual and visual activism, echoing the purpose of the festival itself. Beyond the macro-economic political spectrum, its an activism that can equally be seen in a gesture, a well placed question, or a moment of personal reflection. The Altered State is the positing of a set of alternative possibilities, both vivid and subtle, for living, thinking and feeling. We hope the festival might stimulate discussion around these themes, encouraging shifts, transitions in thinking and being.

Maryam Tafakory, Poem and Stone 

What was your approach in programming the festival?

I approach the festival similarly to the way an editor might approach the editing of a film. The festival is programmed by drawing on three main sources; open submissions, invited guest curators and directly curated work. Our open submissions process is central to the festival’s ethos, opening out opportunities for less well known filmmakers to have their work assessed on merit. The call attracted 850 submissions this year, including around 65 feature films. From this we have drawn three short film programmes and one of our World Premiere features. Alongside this I invited three guest curators - two from France, and one form the USA. These are an important element of Alchemy: adding new international curatorial voices to the programme introduces surprising and sometimes even antithetical elements to the programme, helping to create dialogue and contrast between both films and curatorship. The last element, and an important one, is those films I directly seek out, usually focussing on artists with a significant international profile.

Vivienne Dick, Irreducible Difference 

What are you most looking forward to?

The thing I most look forward to is the intense meeting of minds that happens during the festival - it is a very discursive and intense experience. I like to think there is something almost magical here - it is the great mystery of alchemy itself - the not knowing what kind of volatility might arise through the mixing of disparate elements. In terms of the programme itself, our Filmmaking Symposium this year has a truly stellar panel of speakers: some of the leading figures involved in artists film from around the world. I honestly don’t think such a high-powered panel has ever been seen in Scotland before. I also wouldn’t miss the World premiere of Allan Brown’s Silver, nor the UK premieres of features by Nina Danino and Caspar Stracke. Jacques Perconte’s Ettrick is a major event for us, made in the Scottish Borders and fresh from its USA premiere at MoMa in New York. And then performances from Gaelle Rouard (France) and Monteith McCollum (USA), our installations and shorts programmes… it is simply impossible to choose one thing over another.


Alchemy runs in Hawick, how important is this location to the festival and what is the impact locally?

It has been said that Hawick is an unusual setting for such a festival, in a relatively traditional and economically struggling town of just 14,000 people in the rural Borders. Yet the beautiful and unusual setting of Hawick is exactly what gives Alchemy several of its special qualities. The local community has become very involved in the festival, with a volunteer team of around 40 people, plus a very active artist filmmaking community that has grown up in and around the town. Local businesses also support the festival in a variety of ways, from offering the use of disused shops and characterful warehouse spaces for our installations to financial sponsorship. In turn, the economic impact of the festival is now significant for the town - we attract many international visitors and always sell out all the town's B&B accommodation well in advance, while restaurants and bars report some of their busiest weeks of the year. The festival is helping to put Hawick on the map as a contemporary cultural destination, while offering visiting audiences and filmmakers a uniquely friendly experience that is just not possible within the urban centres.

For full programme information and tickets visit the Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival website. 

All images via Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival.

Alchemy Film & Arts received funding through Creative Scotland's Open Project Fund.

This article was published on 04 Apr 2016