BBC Films

East End Film Festival 2009: Preview

The East End Film Festival returns for its 8th year with a bigger-than-ever programme

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The eighth annual East End Film Festival kicks off on April 23rd and, as in previous years, we can expect a satisfyingly diverse lineup of films and events at various venues across East London.

The programmers have focused on films, which portray aspects of East End and multicultural London life. As such, opening film The End is a documentary, based on the revealing testimonies of reformed, former East-End gangsters. Some of these once disreptuable gents are also rumoured to be turning up for the post-screening party. So if you do attend, just make sure you don't spill their pints.

The other main red-carpet event will be the UK premiere of City Rats, a portmanteau film comprising of four short stories about London's dark underbelly, one of which stars everyone's favourite cockney, Danny Dyer. And another fitting film will be Phil Maxwell and Hazuam Hashim's East End Lives, which attempts to fashion an oral history of the East End from the memories of people who've resided in this ever-changing area all of their lives.

Other UK highlights include Jo Lawler and Christine Molloy's debut feature film Helen, which was well received at last year's Times BFI London Film Festival. Admittedly, Film Network is also interested in this production from the duo known as Desperate Optimists, having played host to some of the original shorts in the Civic Life series, which eventually culminated in the production of this feature. The screening on Sunday 26th April will be followed by a Q&A and a retrospective shorts screening.

A contestant from Eurovision documentary Sounds Like Teen Spirit

A contestant from Eurovision documentary Sounds Like Teen Spirit.

Amongst the slightly stranger stuff to look out for in the catalogue, we quite like the sound of Trail Of The Spider, which purports to be a Western set in the transforming landscapes of East London and, according to the film's official website, "allegorizes the shifting and shrinking space for collective social and political agency, self-determination and dissent". Indeed.

For those of you who prefer documentaries to narrative work, Fire Burn Babylon looks like a highlight. Don Letts narrates the story of how a group of Rastafarians from the island of Montserrat adjust to a new, urban life in the East End. The closing night film of the festival is also a documentary, and it's one that has already been picking up good advance notices.

Sounds Like Teen Spirit follows contestants entering the junior version of the Eurovision Song Contest, from the various early rounds of the competition through to the main event itself. It sounds like a promising cross between recent hit documentaries Spellbound and Anvil! Director Jamie Jay Johnson, whose name has a fitting musical ring about it, will be around to shed light on the film in a Q&A after the screening. Watch out for an upcoming interview with the Director on Film Network. Finally, if you're into music, there are also concert films from Polar Bear and Vashti Bunyan in the schedule.

Cristi Petrescu and Iulia Verdes in the Romanian film, Elevator

Cristi Petrescu and Iulia Verdes in the Romanian film, Elevator.

Befitting this ethinically diverse area of London, there is also a high quality European film programme. A priority would be highly regarded Austrian film that was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture in a Foreign Language, Revanche, about an ex-con who goes on the run with a Ukrainian prostitute. Also, I Was Here, Estonia's entry to the Oscars® last year, is a film about crime and a teenager who gets caught up with the local mafia. Director René Vilbre will attend a Q&A afterwards. One to look out for could be Elevator, about a boy and a girl who find themselves stuck in, you guessed it, a lift, for the duration of the film. It will be interesting to see how the director handles such a claustrophobic setting for the entire 85-mins duration.

A scene from one of the BBC Comedy Shorts, One Of Those Days

A scene from one of the BBC Comedy Shorts, One Of Those Days.

As well as features, we musn't overlook the fine selection of shorts at the festival, split into 10 different programmes. The most significant screening from our perspective is New UK Talents 1, which includes three of the five BBC Comedy Shorts that were produced in conjunction with Film Network. Don't miss this great chance to see Albert's Speech, One Of Those Days and the Oscar®-nominated This Way Up on the big screen.

Scattered among the programmes are shorts that we've championed such as Round and Accordion, plus new works from Film Network community members like Esther May Cambell, Piers Thompson, Nimer Rashed and Max Hattler.

An image from Maggid Street, part of the Iain Sinclair weekend

An image from Maggid Street, part of the Iain Sinclair weekend.

Aside from films there will also be an eclectic selection of seminars, live music shows, discussions and panel events. A key item appears to be the Iain Sinclair Weeekend, a two-day extravaganza of media presented by the London-obsessed author, including screenings of classic films by Orson Welles and Joseph Losey. Sinclair will also be teaming up with graphic novelist Dave McKean to present something called Maggid Street, a multimedia project based on an old film diary of Sinclair's from years gone by.

The ubiquitous Iain will also be involved in something called The London Perambulator, which apparently aims to explore the "importance of liminal spaces at the city's fringe", whatever that means. Will Self and Russell Brand will be at hand to help figure it all out.

Other highlights include something called the Cinephilia Mid Length Film Jam which aims to ressurect films that aren't quite shorts but not long enough to be called features. Plus there will be be an outdoor screening of silent classic Nosferatu featuring a new score by Minima. This will be a free screening, so there is no excuse to not get yourself down to the East End to see something.

The East End Film Festival runs from April 23rd - 30th 2009.

Visit the official site for more details.

James Rocarols | Published 17 April 09

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