Monday, 25 April 2011

East End Film Festival arrives

Now in its tenth year, the East End Film Festival (EEFF) has established itself as an event not afraid to flex its muscles beyond the boundaries of simply seats, screens and popcorn. It is perhaps unsurprising then that EEFF HQ is home to a hive of ‘to do’ lists longer than an Elizabethan skirt on visiting just two days before the gala opening. Besides the weird and wonderful of contemporary and revived cinema, the five-day festival (27 April – 2 May) features live music, exhibitions, DJs, VJs, masons, stars, bars and, yes, popcorn.

Under the stewardship of artistic director Alison Poltock, the festival has landed some impressive names. Portishead’s Adrian Utley is to give a presentation at the UK premiere of the digitally re-mastered version of Martin Scorsese’s iconic Taxi Driver at the beautiful Aubin cinema; St Etienne and the Guillemots are to curate two afternoons of music and cinema as part of the Sonic Film programme in conjunction with fellow decade-old hedonists Camden Crawl and the festival is open with a world premiere of The Libertines – There Are No Innocent Bystanders. The debut feature from music photographer Roger Sargent is an all-access documentary into a band that only a glance at will reveal are an intriguing car crash of moderate talent crushed beneath the weight of expectations and, well, large quantities of drugs.

The event is backed by Tower Hamlets council, Film London, National Lottery funding and sponsors including the likes of Clash magazine, Sheffield Doc Fest and Old Spitalfields Market, which is to host an orchestra made of people turning up chiming bicycle bells.

The festival’s enthusiastic head of marketing Andrew Simpson, who has experience of both the Edinburgh and London film festivals as well as moving up from an internship at EEFF last year, is bristling with excitement ahead of the event. “The EEFF started ten years ago funded by Tower Hamlets council as a community festival. The area has more filmmakers than anywhere else in the UK, it’s such a hive of activity, such an incredibly vibrant, creative, productive area,” he says.

“It’s very much about grasping the nettle of the potential the area holds,” Simpson (pictured) continues. “There’s an audience for local output and every type of cinema from around here which makes the festival what it is. We can pick up the pulse of what’s happening around the globe and it’s amazing how coherent the programme comes together but that’s often the artists reactions to what’s happening around the world.”

Simpson cites several particular highlights. In conjunction with The Romanian Cultural Institute and award-winning filmmaker Bobby Paunescu, the festival has put together a strong line-up of Romanian films and events including the UK premiere of Bogdan George Apetri’s Outbound. Beyond this, there’s atmospheric horror in Sir John Soane’s church in Bethnal Green, films on secret societies in Masonic haunts and a swath of free activities on 2 May across 88 venues.

“It’s a real group effort, everyone pitches in, there’s no real hierarchy. It’s hard work, but very, very rewarding. It’s going to be a lot of intense fun,” concludes Simpson. An accurate statement one suspects, don’t forget the popcorn.

27 April – 2 May
Various venues, London

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