Preview: Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival

SCAN member organisation Alchemy Film & Arts celebrates the fourteenth edition of its flagship event, Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, in the Scottish Borders town of Hawick on 2 – 5 May. Unfolding over four days at a transportive remove from the UK’s urban centres, and just 90 minutes from Edinburgh, this year’s edition features a programme of ‘critical films and disruptive acts’.

Presented with the warmth and solidarity for which Alchemy is known, the programme reflects the organisation’s commitment to making experimental film as accessible to audiences as possible: all cinema screenings include descriptive subtitles, all Q&As have BSL interpretation, and tickets are priced on a pay what you can basis from £5. Whether you’re visiting for a day, staying overnight or just passing through, here are a few highlights to guide you through the UK’s festival of experimental film.


Daily, 10am – 5pm

Located in venues adjacent to the festival’s cinema, Alchemy’s free-to-view moving image exhibitions bring the best of contemporary and visual arts into the very fabric of Hawick’s buildings – from 16mm analogue loops to multichannel digital installations with ambisonic sound. This year’s eight exhibitions include new work by Emily Jacir, Sonya Dyer (pictured), Madison Brookshire, Lilan Yang, Sanaz Sohrabi, Mitchell Stafiej, Richard Forbes-Hamilton, and Gabby Follett and Hogan Seidel.


Sons of Heroes
Thursday 2 May, 8pm

The opening event of this year’s festival is a 60th anniversary screening of Sons of Heroes, made by longstanding amateur cineaste club Hawick Film Group in 1964 to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Hawick’s Battle of Hornshole. Presented for the first time in a newly digitised format, the film is as much a charming snapshot of Hawick six decades ago as it is a loving reenactment of a key episode in the town’s history and cultural identity – and true to Alchemy’s unique blend of locally embedded programming with an international outlook, made in a spirit of generosity, community and experimentation.


Empedocles Syndrome
Friday 3 May, 5pm

This new performance lecture from 2023 Margaret Tait Commission nominee GF Ramsay considers the joyously dense entanglements between volcanoes, the pre-Socratics and early cinema. Excavated from research for the proposed feature film The Empedocles Clause, Ramsay charts two voyages up Mt Etna separated by 2500 years, and draws on an exciting new archaeological discovery…


Focus on Noor Abed
Saturday 4 May, 7:30pm

The Focus artist of this year’s festival is Noor Abed, who will be in Hawick to present three films weaving folklore, indigenous knowledge and narratives of community and resistance into everyday representations of social life in Palestine. Shot on 8mm, 16mm and 35mm, the films defy the decades-long entrenchment of colonial power, building timeless and vivid atmospheres of permanence, longevity and longing to animate Palestinian identity, autonomy and survival.


Sunday 5 May, 12pm

The UK premiere of Khaled Abdulwahed’s captivating feature documentary, in which the Leipzig-based Syrian filmmaker forensically seeks – and manufactures – traces of his father Sadallah, still alive in Aleppo, Syria, who studied engineering in East Germany 60 years ago.


Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival takes place in venues across Hawick, 2 – 5 May 2024.


Header image by Sanne Gault.