The 2012 East End Film Festival
Published on July 3rd, 2012 | by Amanda Chen0
With a city as vastly cultured as London, it’s natural to have a film festival dedicated to the locals of East London with the East End Film Festival. Now on its eleventh year, the week-long festival has expanded to an International festival status with a program of films from over thirty-eight countries around the world. Featuring some of the youngest first- and second-time directors in the biz, the festival keeps a close local connection with its East London youth and makes an effort to promote films that push boundaries. East End Film Festival’s program director Andrew Simpson explains that he looked for individuals who were doing something brave and new when selecting this year’s picks. “We favor things that are quite new, contemporary, and often quite bold,” says Simpson. “I suppose it’s the spirit of something. I’m looking for that sort of determination to challenge expectations.” After watching over 400 films in the past six months, the East End Film Festival’s organizers decided on five themes that aspiring filmmakers have been engaging in, in one way or another.
Simpson says he was led by the films to create five areas of discussion. Since London is hosting the 2012 Olympic Games, it’s not surprising that one series is called “Fun & Games.” The East End Film Festival will be welcoming the 1948 Olympic veterans who represented Team GB for some patriotic celebration as we explore the ups and downs in psychological breakdowns from aspiring athletes. But if you’re not necessarily a sports fan, you’ll at least enjoy some comedic relief in the Mongolian film “Ping Pong.”
Beyond the fun and games is the question of “Identity & Displacement,” especially within a nation. This selection probably offers the most flexibility for young filmmakers to give their two cents on what it means to belong somewhere. Check out Tony Gatliff’s “Indignados” on a young woman’s illegal passage from Africa to Europe during the Occupy movement.
“Resistance Evolution” targets protest culture, a topic Simpson says has come up very actively within the last twelve to eighteen months.
My favorite selection is in “Art & Anarchy,” where director Alison Klayman gets personal with her interactions with a notorious Chinese artist in “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.”
I’m also fantastically excited for the “Out & Proud” section, which reflects LGBT life not only in the UK, but throughout the world. Some great picks involve the Teddy Award-winning account of the life and death of David Kato in “Call Me Kuchu,” and David France’s gay activism documentary, “How to Survive a Plague.”
East End Film Festival has a reputation for choosing movies that aren’t for everyone, and the filmmakers are quite aware of it and do not mind losing the popularity contest for that reason. One movie that Simpson notes to be completely different from anything he’s ever seen is Iranian director Amir Naderi’s “CUT.” It’s about a young, obsessive filmmaker who roams the streets with a megaphone declaring that pure art in cinema has died, until he realizes that he is becoming the accuser and turns himself into a punching bag. The most intriguing part of this is that he screams out the names of films he hates, and I really want to know which commercial blockbusters he decries. Simpson explains, “These films challenge the audience a little bit and some people will go with these films and some people won’t quite key in with what’s going on, but they’re all undoubtedly, discreetly unique as well.” I’m sure all the hipsters who hate being called hipsters are lining up for this one.
One thing the East End Film Festival focuses on more than any other film festival I’ve attended is music. I’m not surprised to hear that a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse will occur on opening night. “We like to take things out of the boundaries of a normal cinema experience,” says Simpson. Featuring never-before-seen footage of Amy, Maurice Linnane’s “Arena: Amy Winehouse, The Day She Came to Dingle” will be screened at St. Anne’s Church to make her performance come to life.
And as we continue on the theme of live performances, the festival closes with Argentinian director Armando Bo’s film, “The Last Elvis (El Ultimo Elvis)” played by a real-life impersonator, John McInerny. This dark narrative faintly dusts the surface of a man who has convinced himself that he was born with Elvis’s voice and is destined to re-live his life, from beginning to end. Given its popularity at the Sundance Film Festival, I’m sure that it will do justice to the King of Rock and Roll.
Simpson explains that the East End Film Festival highlights the cinema of the country that won the best film award the previous year. Indian filmmaker Vikramaditya Motwane is invited this year as the director in residence for his beautiful coming-of-age tale “Udaan”; Armand Patwardhan’s film “Jai Bhim Comrad” explores life among the Dalits, an oppressed caste in India known as the “Untouchables”; and Ashtar Sayed’s “Bijuka” (“Scarecrow”) examines rape, abusive relationships, and arranged marriage. It looks like this festival has a whole range of challenging material lined up. I’m preparing myself for quite a bit of discomfort in my seat!