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Preview: Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, Berwick, Northumberland

The Berwick film festival opens tonight with a world and European premiere as David Whetstone reports

Lena Garnold Claudia Galli Concha who plays Erica Flack in The Hidden Child
Claudia Galli Concha who plays Erica Flack in The Hidden Child

Described by one British newspaper as “the hottest female writer in Sweden at the moment,” Camilla Lackberg has sold 9m books.

This includes 4.5m sold in her native country whose population is only twice that number.

One high profile fan is the North East’s own Val McDermid who has described Lackberg’s work as “Scandinavian crime with a warm heart to melt the ice”. That’s homage paid by one successful crime writer to another.

But you do sometimes wonder what dark realm of the imagination these people inhabit.

Lackberg’s novel The Hidden Child begins with a description of a room which, owing to its resident corpse, has become “a haven for insects and maggots”. Nice!

Loads of people love this kind of thing, of course. The sales notched up by other Swedish masters of the crime genre, Henning Mankell and the late Stieg Larsson, prove as much.

Clearly it is something of a coup for Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival that it will open tonight with the European premiere of the film adaptation of The Hidden Child.

Full credit to festival director Melanie Iredale. Having assigned this year’s festival the theme North by North East, she was free to explore links between this region and Scandinavia, thereby indulging her not-so-secret passion.

“I’m really into Scandinavian film and we did go out looking for a Scandinavian thriller to open the festival,” she says.

“Camilla Lackberg is really interesting. Her books are set in Fjallbacka which is a small and idyllic fishing town on the west coast of Sweden.

“A bit like Midsomer Murders, it’s one of those places where you wouldn’t think anything horrible would ever happen.

“Actually, though, it’s full of murders. It’s enough to put you off going there.”

Melanie is surely being a little disingenuous here. I’d be prepared to bet that Fjallbacka, where thirtysomething Camilla Lackberg grew up, has become a haven for tourists.

As a novel, The Hidden Child is a good read for a long journey. Flashing between the 1940s and the present day, its twists and turns keep you guessing.

The film version has been called by one reviewer “beautiful, intense and thrilling”.

Melanie secured the European premiere with the help of North East film producer and festival board member Samm Haillay who knows the producer of The Hidden Child, Helena Danielsson.

Thanks to Caroline Theobald, North East-based Honorary Consul for Sweden, Danielsson, along with director Per Hanefjord and leading actress Claudia Galli Concha, who plays protagonist Erica, will attend tonight’s 7pm screening.

It will be a significant moment for cultural relations between Sweden and the North East which Ms Theobald has worked hard to strengthen.

Showing along with The Hidden Child will be The Case, a short film shot in Berwick by Gateshead-based Swedish artist Cecilia Stenbom who undertook a six-month residency in the the town earlier this year.

“The film was shot in May and it plays on the Nordic noir genre,” explains Melanie.

“A lot of people who live and work in Berwick took part in the discussions about the film which has a mix of professional and local amateur actors.

“Most people who weren’t involved know someone who was so I think people are really excited about seeing it.”

Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival runs from tonight until Sunday. To browse through a packed programme of screenings and installations, visit www.berwickfilm-artsfest.com

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