The rural film festival celebrates its 20th anniversary

The UK’s biggest rural film festival opens this week in 20 theaters across the border in Powys, after a two-year hiatus.

Borderlines Film Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary and returns on Friday March 4, with Knighton, Presteigne and Hay-on-Wye taking part.

The Courtyard in Hereford kicks off before the start of a varied and busy program over the next 17 days

Supported by the BFI, which grants funds from the National Lottery, the Elmley Foundation and Hereford City Council, Borderlines has become much more than a regional event in its 20 years of existence. It is now recognized as a film festival of national importance alongside its metropolitan counterparts, it has grown enormously since its inception in 2003, growing from 5,000 spectators to a peak of 23,264 in 2020.

Originally created by the Rural Media Company to stimulate and foster a vibrant screen media culture for the public, local media producers and young people, it has now grown into a cultural phenomenon in its own right. With 267 screenings on site, a total of 78 films will be shown at this year’s festival, which ends on Sunday, March 20. The festival has become a big draw for local audiences, visitors to the region and, since 2021 when it moved very successfully online, for viewers across the UK.

The opening day of the festival showcases some of its range and diversity. Opening night includes Friday night screenings at four Flicks in the Sticks network party venues, including Knighton, as well as at Presteigne Screen.

The very first film in the program is quiet, cinematic and contemplative Il Buco, a magical true story about cave exploration in Italy that runs almost entirely without dialogue. It is screened alongside Forest Coal Pit, a short film shot in super 8mm, about conversations between two elderly brothers who live together on a farm in South Wales.

In addition to Italy, Chad and Spain, Borderlines’ opening day features films from Japan (Drive My Car), Belgium (Playground), Malta (Luzzu), Nepal (I Am Belmaya) and of Iceland (Lamb). British films are also well represented with Cow, The Duke, The Courier and Mothering Sunday and The Phantom of the Open.

Directors such as Andrea Arnold (Cow), Laura Wandel (Playground), Sue Carpenter and Belmaya Nepali (I Am Belmaya) feature prominently both on opening day and throughout the festival.

Festival director Naomi Vera-Sanso, who has worked with Borderlines since the very beginning, said: “Over the years we have brought over 1,200 feature films from around the world to this rural area.

“Our audiences delight in stories that immerse them deeply in the life, culture and politics of remote and barely accessible parts of the world. For our 20th anniversary, we’re delivering a premier cinematic experience that’s all about watching brilliant movies together on the big screen again alongside different viewpoints and opinions.

Other program highlights that tie together the very first Borderlines include the screening of This Filthy Earth, an imaginative adaptation of Zola’s The Earth, originally screened at a Cinema and Countryside special event in 2003.

Borderlines 2022 continues the tradition of hosting silent films with live musical accompaniment in collaboration with South West Silents.

Tickets and passes for the live and online sections of the festival are on sale at and in person or by telephone via Courtyard Hereford (01432 340555).

The full list of participating Powys locations is as follows: Knighton Community Centre* (01547 520602); Presteigne Screen, The Assembly Rooms (01544 370202) and Hay-on-Wye, Booth’s Bookshop Cinema (01497 820322). *Information only, tickets on site.