Returning to a physical event after two years, Borderlands Film Festival will be held at locations across Herefordshire, Shropshire, Malvern and the Welsh Borders from 4 to 20 March 2022. The packed programme includes myriad previews of UK and international features, and showings of awards-season favourites, including Drive My Car, Flee, Petite Maman, Parallel Mothers and The Worst Person in the World. Some of the films are also being made available online. Here, we pick 10 must-see gems from across the festival.

Faya Dayi

The documentary debut of Mexican-Ethiopian actor-filmmaker Jessica Beshir, Faya Dayi is a meditative study of a small rural Ethiopian town where the growing, harvesting and ingesting of the addictive leaf khat is central to everyday life. Shooting in black and white, Beshir eschews a linear narrative in favour of dreamlike observation, her camera dropping in on conversations, playtimes and arguments. As Beshir rediscovers the country she left as a child, so the audience is invited on a dreamlike journey of revelation.

Gwledd / The Feast

That it’s filmed entirely in Welsh may be the most immediately intriguing thing about Lee Haven Jones’ rural horror, but its universal themes of gentrification and the erosion of rural traditions transcend language. Featuring a mesmerising central performance from Annes Elwy as Cadi, the enigmatic hired help for an evening’s lavish country banquet, this is a creeping chiller which slowly ratchets up the tension until all hell finally breaks loose. Filmmakers from across the UK are well represented across Borderlands, with offerings including Clio Barnard’s Ali & Ava, Harry Wootliff’s True Things, Russell Owen’s Shepherd, and the Open Screen strand showcasing shorts from local directors.

Hive

Winner of three prizes in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic strand – the audience award, grand jury prize and directing award – Hive is the blistering feature debut of Kosovan writer-director Blerta Basholli. Based on true events, the story follows a woman whose husband went missing in the 1999 Kosovo war, and who sets up a collective with other such women to sell local food products – and so clashes with the traditions of their patriarchal village. A visceral study of the heavy responsibility that comes with challenging the status quo, it’s no surprise that this was Kosovo’s official Oscar entry.

How I Became a Partisan

For her debut feature, Slovakian-born Roma filmmaker Vera Lacková turns her camera on her own personal history, exploring the story of her great-grandfather Jan, a fearless Roma partisan in the former Czechoslovakia during the Second World War. Combining archival documents and interviews with the descendants of Jan and others like him, Lacková effectively dispels the myth of the Roma people as a minority ethic group who were simply victims of the Nazis and reframes their place in European history. The film is screening as part of Borderland’s partnership with the Berlin-based Ake Dikhea Festival of Romani Film, at which How I Became a Partisan won best feature in 2021.

Lamb

Moving, intelligent and genuinely surprising, Lamb is – alongside Julia Ducournau’s masterful Titane – one of the most bracingly original films in Borderlands’ selection. Noomi Rapace puts in a stunning performance as a dairy farmer who lives with her husband in the remote Icelandic countryside. Her outlandish decision to adopt one of the lambs is born not just of the grief she feels for her own lost children but – it transpires – because the animal is something altogether different. To say any more would be to spoil the joy of discovering this exceptional film. Suffice it to say that director Valdimar Jóhannsson has served up a deeply human and sensitively observed meditation on loss, love and acceptance wrapped up in a fantastically WTF? farm fable. If you didn’t catch it on release, now’s your chance.

The Airship Norge’s Flight Across the Arctic Ocean

The Airship Norge’s Flight Across the Atlantic Ocean (1926)

Alongside all of the previews and new releases, Borderlands have also programmed some archive wonders. Savvy audiences will surely grab the chance to catch the likes of Nanook of the North (1922) and the classic 1945 noir Fallen Angel on the big screen. Most compelling, perhaps, is rare 1926 documentary The Airship Norge’s Flight Across the Arctic Ocean, which takes in a journey made by explorers in the airship Norge from Svalbard in Norway across to Teller in Alaska. With cameras taking in the view from both land and air, this stunning restoration by the Norwegian Film Museum promises breathtaking views and daring adventure from almost a century ago.

Queen of Glory

Actor Nana Mensah makes her directorial debut with this indie comedy, in which she also stars as Ghanaian American PhD student Sarah, forced to re-evaluate her life after the death of her mother. Inheriting a Christian bookshop in the Bronx while also struggling with traditional funeral arrangements, Sarah slowly begins to reconnect with her culture. A funny and insightful portrait of the immigrant experience, and the reclaiming of identity, Queen of Glory has won a host of festival plaudits, including Tribeca’s award for best new narrative director for Mensah and two Independent Spirit nominations.

Playground

Belgium’s official Oscar entry and winner of several festival prizes – including the Sutherland Award for best first feature at the 2021 London Film Festival and the Fipresci prize at Cannes Un Certain Regard – Laura Wandel’s childhood drama is a compelling piece of cinema. Revolving around two siblings, one of whom is being bullied at school, it effectively captures the crucial role played by playground politics in the lives of any young person. That cinematographer Frédéric Noirhomme’s camera remains at child’s-eye-level throughout further adds to Playground’s astonishing dramatic power.

Sediments

A group of six trans women head off on a raucous Spanish road trip in Adrián Silvestre’s documentary, which shines a light on their emotions and experiences without reducing them to mere ciphers for their entire community; like any of us, each has their own distinct personalities, problems and viewpoints. By working closely with the women – all members of Barcelona’s I-Vaginarium trans collective – and allowing them to lead the way from the outset, Silvestre gains a level of trust which results in a frank and sensitive portrait, full of passion and humour. It’s worth noting that both Silvestre and the women cite Antonio Giménez Rico’s 1983 film Dressed in Blue, with its cliché-free depiction of trans women, as a major influence for the project.

Souad 

With her second feature, Egyptian filmmaker Ayten Amin explores the status of women in her home country through the story of two teenage sisters, Souad (Bassant Ahmed) and Rabab (Basmala Elghaiesh). While Rabab seems comfortable to conform to the traditional Muslim ideals her family and culture demand, Souad only does so in public; in private, she leads a tempestuous online life complete with virtual romances. The result is an insightful, emotional portrait of how myriad women are still forced to hide their true selves, and how the online world offers a tempting cultural freedom unavailable to so many in their everyday lives.