Colin Firth was in Berwick for the first of 10 special screening of his new film, The Railway Man, at a sold-out Maltings Theatre.
Co-star Jeremy Irvine was another special guest for the movie, which tells the story of late Berwick resident Eric Lomax, tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labour camp during World War II.
The powerful tale of survival, love and redemption starring Firth and Nicole Kidman is based on the best-selling book written by Lomax, one of thousands of Allied prisoners forced to work on the notorious Burma “Death” Railway during the war.
Decades later, Lomax discovers that the Japanese interpreter he holds responsible for much of his treatment is still alive and sets out to confront him, and his past.
The Maltings has secured a series of special screenings of the movie, a week before its national release.
The Railway Man will open across the UK on January 10, but The Maltings has 10 showings prior to that date, including Friday night’s special preview screening and question-and-answer session with members of the cast and crew.
Eric’s widow, Patti Lomax, was another special guest on what was a night Berwick and The Maltings can be proud of.
The venue has re-opened after the festive break earlier than usual to screen the The Railway Man, and tickets have been snapped up for many of the showings.
Tamiko Mackie, cinema programme manager, said: “Due to its very special local connection as well as the calibre of the cast, we have keeping close tabs on this film for a very long time.”
Patti Lomax added: “My family and I are thrilled that people in Berwick – both those who knew Eric and those who did not – have an opportunity to see it.
“The film is not just about us – the story belongs to everybody in this area who had a relative caught on the Burma/Siam Railway and never really knew what they had experienced.”
Part of the film was shot in Berwick itself, as well as Holy Island and East Lothian.
Asked what it was like to bring the film to Berwick, producer Andy Paterson, who was in town for the first screening, said: “It’s amazing. It’s taken a long time to put the film together. Over the years I’ve been coming to Berwick to meet Eric and Patti and try to figure out a way to tell this amazing story.
“Eric and the veterans of that railway always felt that they were the forgotten army. They felt their story wasn’t told, both during the war and the legacy their families had to deal with.
“So Eric wrote a beautiful book and, I think, wanted us to join that process of telling the story and passing it on so that those forgotten men can finally feel that their story has been properly told.”
Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky from a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson, the film recently received its UK premiere in London’s Leicester Square, following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
The film screenings are supported by the opening of a photography exhibition at The Granary Gallery on Saturday.