Ben Russell Wins Prize at International Film Festival Rotterdam

Posted: 6th January 2015

US-based media artist Ben Russell has won a key prize at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) for a work commissioned by Northern Film & Media and Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival. The awards ceremony took place on Jan 25 as part of the 44th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Russell’s film, ‘Greetings to the Ancestors’, is a cinema edit of his immersive film installation ‘The Twilight State’, which premiered at Berwick in September 2014. Following support from Arts Council England and an international call for proposals which attracted hundreds of entries from over 30 different countries, Russell was awarded £5,000 to make the film.

‘Greetings to the Ancestors’ was one of three winners in the 10th edition of Rotterdam’s Canon Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films. It was selected by a jury of experts from an eclectic field of 20 shortlisted films from around the world. The jury singled out Russell's film "For its complex approach to ethnographic filmmaking, its sensuous psychedelia, its self-reflexive and intricate weaving of voice and landscape."

Northern Film & Media’s project and development manager Lauren Healey said: “We were delighted to partner with Berwick to create an opportunity for such exciting new work to be made and to ensure that North East audiences were the first to see it. It was wonderful that the quality of that work was recognised at this acclaimed festival and we are even more thrilled that Ben's work was further singled out among such a distinguished field."

Having had solo exhibitions and screenings all over the world – from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris – Russell came to the North East of England in September 2014 to present ‘The Twilight State’, on which ‘Greetings to the Ancestors’ is based. The film is set between Swaziland and South Africa and uses the unusual landscape of the borderless Kruger National Park to explore themes of culture, nature, society and existence. Focusing on the abrupt meeting of the natural world and urban modernity in a society still grappling with the after-effects of apartheid, ‘The Twilight State’ documents the lives of the territory’s inhabitants as borders dematerialise, evolve and dissolve.

In addition to the Tiger award, there is a strong North-East presence at the festival with a delegation of eight industry professionals cementing a new partnership between NFM and IFFR.

Lauren Davies is participating in the Rotterdam Producers Lab with her forthcoming feature film The Undertow, while producers Gerry Maguire of Pins and Needles Media and Ashley Horner of Pinball Films are attending Cinemart, a leading market for co-production in Europe and beyond.

NFM Creative Industry Manager Andy Jones commented: "ensuring our creative producers are connected to the international market has always been a key part of our role at NFM, and by building stronger links with key festival and markets we aim to enhance the profile of our regional talent."

Image above shows Andy Jones (Creative Industries Manager, NFM), Peter Taylor (Director, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival), Melanie Iredale (Deputy Director, Sheffield Doc/Fest), Ben Russell and Huw Davies (Chair, BF&MAF) at the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam.

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