Seo-hyun Ahn in Okja

recommendations from the Borderlines Film Festival team

The eighteenth edition of Borderlines Film Festival came to a close on Sunday 15 March after an exhilarating and successful 17-day run in 27 venues across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Malvern and the Marches. Two days later, most of its partner venues including The Courtyard in Hereford, Malvern Theatres, Kinokulture Cinema in Oswestry and the Flicks in the Sticks network of community centres and village halls were closed to the public indefinitely.

Although it may not be possible to replicate the magical experience of watching films on the big screen in the company of others for some time, there is loads of potential for cinema viewing at home.

New initiatives are burgeoning to counteract the effects of social distancing. 606 Distribution has set up a scheme to support your local cinema by renting System Crasher, originally scheduled for UK release last Friday, to view on Vimeo. System Crasher follows the turbulent ups and downs of a 9-year-old German girl Benni, too volatile to slot into any form of care, and had a powerful impact on audiences at Borderlines.

Distributors Modern Films have instituted a similar arrangement for customers opting to watch The Perfect Candidate, the new feature film from Wadjda director Haifaa Al-Mansour, on their website.

  • Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes
    Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

The Film Festival has teamed up with streaming service MUBI. MUBI has a rolling list of 30 unusual and interesting movies, from classics to new releases, that you can watch online or on a tablet via an app. A new film arrives every day as an old one departs so many tastes are catered for – and it’s a great opportunity to make new discoveries. From this week, subscribers to the Borderlines mailing list will get free access to the viewing platform for three months via a customised link. Subscribe to the newsletter at  

Currently running on MUBI is a Jean-Pierre Melville season (’60s and early ’70s classics such as Le Doulos, Army of Shadows, Le Cercle Rouge, Un Flic) and a handful of films by Ingmar Bergman and Jean-Luc Godard. On the other end of the timeline, fresh from preview at Borderlines 2020, there’s a brand-new title from Brazil, a crazy, inventive (and gory) Western/science fiction hybrid called Bacurau. You can also watch Mustang, set in Turkey, shown at Borderlines in 2016, in which five orphaned sisters spiritedly rebel against the restrictions imposed on them by their repressive family.

With all the big studios, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Warner Brothers, Sony and Disney competing for your custom, there is an excellent choice of independent film on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema. Both sites charge rentals on a sliding scale depending on how recent the film.

The line-up on both platforms includes some of the outstanding previews shown at Borderlines this year: And Then We Danced, System Crasher, The Perfect Candidate from Saudi Arabia and dance documentary Cunningham.

Curzon is offering the chance to view on demand The Truth, the latest film by director Hirokazu Kore-eda and his first not in the Japanese language, alongside some of his earlier works, Shoplifters, I Wish, Our Little Sister, Like Father Like Son, The Third Murder and After the Storm. It has also curated a collection of features and documentaries called ‘Women on Fire’ around Céline Sciamma’s stunning period piece, Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Mr. Jones, Long Day’s Journey Into Night,Almodóvar’s Pain & Glory, Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You can likewise be rented via the BFI, which is celebrating the career of actress Tilda Swinton with a collection of her best movies.

The BFI Player also offers a subscription (free 14-day trial) which gives you access to a selection of classics and cult movies. Beyond that, it hosts a vast collection of archive films that are free for anyone to view. Worth exploring is the 120 years’ worth of films in the Britain on Film collection where you can explore films from the past about the area in which you live.

Do you have trouble rooting through the mass of material on offer on Netflix and Amazon to find something that really appeals? On Netflix, Borderlines recommends recent releases, Marriage Story, The Two Popes and Uncut Gems. Slightly older, but worth a view are Call Me By Your Name (special endorsement by Festival Director Naomi Vera-Sanso), Ladybird (the debut feature by Little Women director Greta Gerwig) and Lion. Okja is an extraordinary parable of multinational, corporate greed from Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho. Groundhog Day is always worth a watch for Bill Murray’s superb, laconic performance, particularly so in these strange time-warping days.

The Borderlines team recommends the following new additions on Amazon: Booksmart, Midsommar, Blinded By The Light. Fisherman’s Friends, Finding Your Feet and Hunt For The Wilderpeople (from Jojo Rabbit director Taika Waititi), all on Amazon, have proved immensely popular with village hall audiences on the Flicks in the Sticks circuit.

Articles from the BFI and online magazine Vodzilla provide more Netflix and Amazon viewing suggestions. Links to these can be found on the Carry On Viewing news item on the Borderlines website.

Don’t underestimate terrestrial channels either. Many good films are available to watch through BBC iPlayer’s Films category: Mindhorn, Margin Call, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Made in Dagenham and the Hitchcock classic The Lady Vanishes are all up there for the next few weeks.

Filmmaker Carol Morley has set up a Friday Film Club at 8pm each week, choosing a film available to view on the public domain, with dialogue to follow on Twitter. Watch parties are proliferating. Explore the options, specify a movie that appeals to your group of friends, set a time, then exchange views on Zoom or WhatsApp. It may not beat going to the cinema but, in these times of stress, it’s not a bad alternative.

By: Jo Comino
Photos: Alison Chapman

Find out more

Borderlines Film Festival

606 Distribution Support your Local Independent Cinema

Modern Films (The Perfect Candidate distributors)

BFI Player

BFI Player Archive Films

Curzon Home Cinema

BFI Netflix and Amazon recommendations

Vodzilla Netflix recommendations

Carol Morley’s Friday Film Club

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