2021 Borderlines Film Festival: The online line-up and how it works
James R | On 26, Mar 2021
The Borderlines Film Festival is going online for 2021, a first for the festival.
Now in its 19th year, the event has always committed to making the best indie cinema from around the world accessible to people in places that are hard to reach across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Malvern and the Welsh borders. 2021 is different, but not that different, with the virtual edition enabling people from an even wider range of locations to catch up with the latest festival favourites.
Running from today until 11th April, the line-up features 32 previews, including 2 brand new releases – most notably the awards contender The Father, in its first British festival showing, plus Minari, First Cow, The Salt in Our Waters, Gunda, Stray, Limbo, Herself, Martin Eden, There Is No Evil and The Reason I Jump.
Each film has a set start time on a given date, and will be available for either 48, 72 or 96 hours from that start time. Once you start watching, you’ll have 24 hours to complete your viewing. Intros and Q&As will accompany films, as well as events and short films. The festival is powered by Eventive, which supports Roku, Apple TV, Airplay and Chromecast.
Tickets cost £8 per film, with passes available for £35 (5 films) or £70 (10 films) and concessions available for 16-30 years, those who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, who are unemployed, who live on their own, who are living solely on the state pension and also single parents.
Book tickets here – and read on below for the full guide of what feature films are streaming when.
Available to stream: 26th to 28th March
Curmudgeonly 81-year-old Anthony lives ostensibly alone in his London flat, visited by his daughter Anne, and fighting off the carers she tries to impose upon him. But all is not as it seems as we enter the fragmented consciousness of a man in the grip of dementia in which familiar people and places shape-shift and merge into one another. With an adept screenplay, co-written by Christopher Hampton, and a magnificent performance by Hopkins that veers between righteous outrage and extreme vulnerability, this is a moving but unflinching take on ageing and dementia.
Available to stream: 26th to 29th March
In 1981, Tina Turner was interviewed by People Magazine. Five years earlier, she had divorced Ike Turner, her husband and musical partner for 16 years, and almost no one knew why. Her harrowing account of the abuse and torture she had lived through and the literal escape she made one night after years of trauma would fuel, along with her undeniable talent, one of the most phenomenal comebacks in music history, making her a cultural symbol of strength and resilience to her fans around the world. Incorporating a wealth of never-before-seen footage, this feature documentary recounts the story behind this public face, of a woman still struggling to be released from the past.
Available to stream: 27th to 29th March
Kate Winslet plays pioneering scientist Anning, with Saoirse Ronan as the married woman on a rest cure who falls in love with her. The film has a sensuous, tactile quality, through the handling of a fossil or a tool, and a strong sense of place, the sea salty character of Lyme Regis. It takes a major step in redressing how women have traditionally been erased from history of science and portrays how female companionship can transcend class difference in small town 19th-century Britain but above all, it is a love story of extraordinary intimacy.
Available to stream: 27th to 29th March
As they search for food and shelter, Zeytin, Nazar and Kartal move inconspicuously through Turkish society, and at dog-level, offer an unvarnished viewpoint on human life — as well as their own canine culture. Different in habits and character, the dogs’ lives intersect when they each form bonds with a group of young Syrians who share the streets with them. They lead us into overlooked corners of society: women in loveless marriages, protesters without arms, refugees without sanctuary. A narrative and line of sight led by dogs is an extraordinary thing, a sensory voyage into new ways of seeing.
Available to stream: 28th to 30th March
Giving space to voices from both sides of the debate, The 8th’s primary focus is on the impassioned female leaders of the pro-choice campaign – in particular, veteran crusader Ailbhe Smyth and self-styled glitter-activist Andrea Horan – as they lead on a bold, highly-visible strategy of grassroots activism. It’s a radical shift in tactics after a 35-year struggle to try and bring a historically conservative electorate over the line. As referendum date draws closer, the documentary explores the wrenching failures of the past, condensing decades of Irish history and delineating the patriarchal forces working to restrict a woman’s right to make choices about her own body.
Available to stream: 28th to 31st March
David (a scene-stealing Alan Kim), a seven-year-old with a heart murmur, moves with his parents and sister from California to a mobile home in rural Arkansas. There, his father Jacob plans to start a farm specialising in Korean vegetables, while his mother Monica frets about money. The arrival of Monica’s mother from South Korea, certainly not the grandmother David had in mind, complicates matters further. Gentle, funny and moving, coloured by a child’s viewpoint, it subverts Asian-American stereotyping by immersing its audience in the experience of a family, based on director Lee Isaac Chung’s own story, straining to balance their dreams with survival.
Veins of the World
Available to stream: 29th to 31st March
In a province in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, 11-year-old Amra lives a traditional nomad life with his mother Zaya, father Erdene and little sister Altaa. Erdene, a mechanic, is the leader of the last few nomads who resist the global mining companies devastating the steppe by digging for gold. When Erdene is killed in a car accident, Amra sets out to continue the fight in his father’s spirit – using his own novel and contemporary resources.
There Is No Evil
Available to stream: 29th March to 2nd April
Every society that enforces the death penalty requires people to kill other people. Four separate episodes – There is No Evil; She Said, “You Can Do It”; Birthday; Kiss Me – pivot on this moral dilemma. 40-year-old Heshmat is a family man living peacefully with his wife and young daughter. Pouya has just begun his mandatory 2-year military service and an honourable discharge would mean he might be able to leave Iran to live abroad with his girlfriend. Javad is a young soldier on leave, about to propose to Nana, his girlfriend on her birthday. All these seemingly normal lives are disrupted by hidden secrets.
Available to stream: 30th March to 2nd April
We Intend To Cause Havoc follows the formation of Zambia’s most popular rock band of the 1970s, W.I.T.C.H., and documents the life of its lead singer, Jagari (an Africanisation of Mick Jagger).
180 Degree Rule
Available to stream: 30th March to 2nd April
A tragic accident at a family wedding in the mountains north of Tehran sets in train a chain of events that reveal not just the faulty dynamics and mistrust within a single marriage, but the patriarchal constraints that dominate and cripple society as a whole. Through the choices she makes, wife, mother and teacher, Sara, in a mesmerising performance by Sahar Dolatshahi, ‘crosses the line’, flouting social, moral and legal norms to find herself and her whole family tangled in a web of secrecy and deceit for which the only outlet is silence.
You Will Die At Die at 20
Available to stream: 31st March to 4th April
Branded an outcast as the ‘son of death’ and with his father fled to work abroad, Muzamil’s status brings him into contact with others whom society would sooner forget. Set during Omar al-Bashir’s dictatorship, he walks a line between religious absolution and shaking himself free from his destiny. Striking images and a visual intelligence in smaller moments bring an uncanny warmth to the film’s interiors, while exteriors highlight the vistas of Central Sudan, the land between the two Niles. An assured debut, gorgeous to look at and morally nuanced, this is a humane invocation to freedom in fable-like form.
Available to stream: 31st March to 3rd April
Inseparable sisters raised in a small town on the Irish border, Lauren and Kelly’s lives were shattered by the mysterious death of their mother. Left to pick up the pieces after her sister abruptly disappeared, Lauren is suddenly confronted with the family’s dark and traumatic past when Kelly returns home after being reported missing for a whole year. Their intense sisterhood reignited, Kelly’s desire to unearth their history is not welcomed by all in the small town as rumours and malice spread like wildfire, threatening to push them over the edge.
The Shepherdess (+Q&A)
Available to stream: 1st to 3rd April
When Laila marries a fellow nomadic tribesman, she and the rest of their tribe migrate to mountainous plains. Their move, and Laila’s beauty, attract the attention of local police officers. Through seven folk songs, Laila interrogates what it means to be a woman desired by many but unable to act on desires of her own—an allegory of the political situation in Kashmir and Jammu. Set against the beautiful Himalayan mountains, this lyrical, often humorous story comments on life at the intersection of desire, politics and culture.
My Little Sister
Available to stream: 1st to 4th April
Brilliant playwright, Lisa no longer writes. She lives in Switzerland with her family, but her heart has stayed in Berlin, beating to the rhythm of her brother’s heart. The ties between the twins have grown stronger since Sven, a famous stage actor, was diagnosed with an aggressive type of leukaemia. Lisa refuses to accept his fate, moving heaven and earth to get him back on stage. Her relationship with her husband starts to fall apart, but Lisa only has eyes for her brother, her mirror, who connects her back with her deepest aspirations and rekindles her desire to create, to feel alive…
Available to stream: 2nd to 5th April
Noémie Merlant (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) plays Jeanne, as awkward and withdrawn a young woman as her bar lady mother, with whom she lives, is outgoing and uninhibited. Working as a caretaker in an amusement park on the night shift, she encounters the new thrill ride, the extraordinary and majestic Jumbo, and her life literally lights up. With shades of E.T. and Under the Skin, and a vivid, inventive re-imagining of intimacy, it’s love at first sight.
Available to stream: 2nd to 6th April
According to Kosovar folklore, a Zana is a mystical creature that bathes in streams and protects children. An Albanian woman, Lume, lives with her husband, Ilir, and mother-in-law, Remzije, in their small Kosovar village. Haunted by night terrors, childless and unable to get pregnant, Lume is relentlessly pressured by Remzije to produce a child. Under duress, she abandons modern medicine and seeks the help of witch doctors and faith healers to treat her infertility. Pregnant at last, Lume’s long-suppressed traumas from the war slowly rise to torment her again, with shattering consequences.
Available to stream: 3rd to 6th April
Veteran filmmaker, Agnieszka Holland (Mr Jones) once again explores the link between private and political worlds in this beautifully shot and told story of an unconventional and intriguing individual. Jan Mikolášek, played, young and old, by father and son actors, Ivan and Josef Trojan, is a healer, with intuitive skills in herbal medicine, who learns to diagnose from the colour and viscosity of urine. Austere and mystical. His fame spreads, and he is both used and protected by succeeding National Socialist and Communist regimes until the political climate turns in the post-Stalinist years, putting his morals and his relationship with his assistant František to the test.
Available to stream: 3rd to 6th April
Sandra (Clare Dunne) is a young Dublin mum struggling to provide her two young daughters with a warm, safe, happy home to grow up in, apart from her over-possessive and violent ex-husband. When the local council can’t meet her needs, she decides to build that home herself from scratch. With limited financial resources, Sandra musters all her ingenuity and a steely determination to make her ambitious dream a reality. It is her daughters’ love and the community of friends and acquaintances who muck in and support her that help build, not just a house, but her own strength and sense of self.
Available to stream: 4th to 6th April
Wessi, who moved to Germany at a young age, returns to the Gobi Desert where her sister Ossi (played by non-actor Gunsmaa Tsogzol) has been living ever since. The bond between the sisters has remained strong but they clash culturally. Wessi immediately wants to plunge back into the harsh nomadic life – this is an intensely physical film with scenes of animal slaughter – and admires Ossi’s everyday skills. Ossi, on the other hand, seems overwhelmed by Wessi’s modern attitudes, and is further unsettled when she realises her sister is falling in love with an older neighbour. A fight for love and recognition within a rigidly traditional society begins.
The Metamorphosis of Birds
Available to stream: 4th to 8th April
Catarina Vasconcelos’s grandmother, Beatriz, married Henrique on her 21st birthday; he was a naval officer who spent long periods at sea. Beatriz, who learned everything from how plants grow vertically, tended the roots of their six children. The oldest son, Jacinto (Hyacinth), Catarina’s father, dreamed he could be a bird. One day, suddenly, Beatriz died. Catarina’s mother also died, not suddenly, but when her daughter was 17. On that day, Catarina and Jacinto’s mutual loss shifted their relationship beyond that of simply father and daughter. This dream-like documentary, full of stunning imagery and shot on 16mm film, reconfigures their intertwined stories.
Available to stream: 5th to 8th April
1980. Michal and Juraj are students at a theological seminary in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. With their school under threat of closure, the tutors are moulding the seminarians to the dictates of the ruling Communist Party. Each of the young students must decide whether to take the easy way out and collaborate with the regime – through the state-sponsored priests’ association Pacem in Terris – or stick to his traditional Catholic beliefs and subject himself to draconian surveillance by the secret police.
Available to stream: 5th to 9th April
Martin Eden is drawn out of his Neapolitan working class background into bourgeois society when he defends a young boy from a beating on the docks. Falling in love with Elena, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, he dreams of becoming a writer, and her social equal. Self-education and his very success, however, take him into a world of left-wing politics, and as his horizons broaden and grow more complex, they become more troubled, reflecting the upheavals of the world around him.
Eyimofe (This Is My Desire)
Available to stream: 6th to 8th April
Set in a vibrant, bustling Lagos, Nigeria, Eyimofe follows the separate lives and desires of Rosa, a hairdresser, and Mofe, a factory technician, two economically disadvantaged people who are bent on seeking better fortunes abroad. Shot on 16mm film and with a soundtrack that incorporates elements of Blues with Highlife guitars and riffs, it’s the debut feature film of co-directors and twin brothers, Arie and Chuko Esiri, by turns, dream-like and down-to-earth, rooted in the drudgery of daily life. It functions as a heart song for freedom, resilience, and the difficult choices we are often forced to make.
The Filmmakers House (+Q&A)
Available to stream: 6th to 10th April
Isaacs begins to shoot a film in his home, with people linked to his own life as its stars: the two English builders who are replacing his fence; his Pakistani neighbour; a homeless Slovakian, who invites himself in and tests everyone’s ideas of boundaries between host and guests; and his effusive Colombian cleaner. The multi award-winning Isaacs (Lift, Travellers, Outside the Court) tells stories of modern Britain through connecting with ordinary people. Blending documentary and fiction, this is a film laced with wry humour, emotional intensity and a radical curiosity, both a meditation on, and a subversion of the act of filmmaking itself.
How to Be a Good Wife
Available to stream: 7th to 9th April
Set in the 1960s, Juliette Binoche plays Paulette Van Der Beck who has run the Bitche finishing school in Alsace with her husband for many years. At a time when women were expected to be subservient to their husbands, their mission has been to train teenage girls to become perfect housewives. When Paulette’s husband dies suddenly, she discovers the school is on the verge of bankruptcy and must take urgent action. As preparations get underway for a Best Housekeeping TV contest, she and her lively students start to question their beliefs as the nation-wide protests of May 1968 transform society around them.
The Reason I Jump (+Q&A)
Available to stream: 7th to 10th April
Based on the bestselling book by Naoki Higashida, written when he was just 13, this acute documentary threads the revelatory descriptions of his autism through intimate portraits of five remarkable young people in different countries. Using colours, kinetic lights and immersive sound, it opens a window into an intense and overwhelming, but often joyful, sensory universe and enables us to see the world through their eyes. Naoki’s core message is plain: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.
Available to stream: 8th to 11th April
Omar is a promising young musician. Separated from his Syrian family, he is stuck on a remote Scottish island awaiting the fate of his asylum request. He is not alone. He and his flatmates attend hilariously ill-judged ‘cultural awareness’ classes, binge on ‘Friends’ boxsets, tenuously connected to the outside world and their past lives. Omar’s sadness is reflected in his inability to pick up his beloved oud and play. Filmed on the Uists in the Outer Hebrides, Sharrock’s second feature is both funny and heart-rending, a cross-cultural satire that subtly sews together the hardship and hope of the refugee experience.
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao
Available to stream: 8th to 12th April
Rio de Janeiro, 1950. Eurídice, 18, and Guida, 20, are two inseparable sisters living at home with their conservative parents. Although immersed in a traditional life, each one nourishes a dream: Eurídice of becoming a renowned pianist, Guida of finding true love. In a dramatic turn, they are separated by their father and forced to live apart. They take control of their separate destinies, while never giving up hope of finding each other.
Available to stream: 9th to 13th April
An instructor at a prestigious Berlin music school, Anna Bronsky takes a withdrawn teenage violinist Alexander under her wing. Her efforts to nurture what she believes is his unique talent become increasingly obsessive and misguided, encroaching on her personal relationships: with her viol-maker husband, their 10-year-old musical son and her colleague and lover, Christian. Events reach a chaotic crescendo as the day of Alexander’s exam approaches.
Available to stream: 9th to 12th April
King-Lu and Cookie, on the run from a band of vengeful hunters in the 1820s Pacific Northwest, dream of striking it rich, but their tenuous plan to make their fortune on the frontier relies on the secret use of a wealthy landowner’s prized dairy cow. Shot low off the ground and using, like Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2010), a square frame to give a sense of humble intimacy, the film eschews the panoramic grandeur of western myths. Set among outcasts on the edge of capitalism’s grasp, this is a rare tale of the blossoming of a heartfelt male friendship, one told with sublime gentleness and touching compassion.
The Salt in Our Waters
Available to stream: 10th to 12th April
For his latest art installation, Rudro journeys to a remote mangrove isle on the Bangladeshi Delta, a day’s boat ride and a world away from modern, crowded Dhaka. Welcomed by the local fishermen and their leader Chairman, Rudro’s modern ideas and lifelike sculptures enchant the village boys and his landlord’s daughter Tuni. But when the local Ilish catch proves elusive, the elders blame the empty nets on Rudro’s ‘idol’ worship. In a vanishing land where sea and sky merge, an electrifying storm is brewing and change – welcome or not – is coming.
Available to stream: 10th to 13th April
Ben Whishaw gives a deliriously committed performance in BAFTA-nominated British filmmaker Karia’s feature debut, a gripping and exhilarating thriller developed from his 2013 short Beat. Whishaw plays Joseph, an emotionally unstable airport security officer beset by loneliness, insomnia and unresolved feelings for his co-worker Lily. After lashing out at work, he goes on a chaotic odyssey through London, experiencing surreal and disturbing encounters with strangers (and more tender ones with Lily and his troubled parents) as his actions push him closer and closer to breaking point – and/or liberation.
Available to stream: 11th to 14th April
Set on a farm, shot in natural light, with long takes and without a score, Kossakovsky invites you to view the lives of a mother sow (the eponymous Gunda), two resourceful cows, and a scene-stealing, one-legged chicken through new eyes. Hailed as “pure cinema” by Paul Thomas Anderson and a “visceral meditation on existence” by executive producer Joaquin Phoenix, the documentary movingly recalibrates our moral universe, exploring the inherent value of life and the mystery of all animal consciousness, including our own.
Available to stream: 11th to 13th April
At the end of the school year Okju, her little brother Dongju and their father move in with the grandfather they hardly know. This is not just because the old man needs care. After his divorce, their father is as good as broke and although grandpa’s three-room apartment is pretty unsuitable, it provides temporary shelter to the family. Not long afterwards, their aunt, whose marriage is on the rocks, moves in as well. With acutely observed moments, this is a remarkable debut reminiscent, both in theme and style, of Japanese master Kore-eda Hirokazu.