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East End Film Festival 2007: Preview & highlights

Almost Adult

Feature by Veronica Blake

THE East End Film Festival, now in its sixth year, is an explosive mix of 2007’s most inspirational features, short films and special events, all centred on the artistic hub of Europe – London’s East End.

Dedicated to celebrating film in true festival style, this year’s festival takes place between April 19 and 26 and promises to offer a scintillating and eclectic mix of features and events combined with music, visual arts, performance, fashion and comedy.

The EEFF programme is designed to explore the potential of cinema to cross cultural, political and artistic boundaries and to visualise the experience of living and working in the East End of London “where enthusiasm and energy course along its streets” (Jason Solomons, Patron).

With features from as far a field as Singapore and Serbia and set in a range of diverse locations from Romania and Poland to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangladesh, the festival has something to say to all of East London’s communities.

Venues across east London – including Rich Mix, Bethnal Green; Genesis, Mile End; Rio, Dalston; Cineworld, West India Quay – will be screening a series of unique films that aren’t readily available in cinemas.

Nitin Sawhney, Musician and Patron of the festival, said: “Having been a patron of the festival for four years, it’s been really rewarding to watch the festival grow, reflecting the creative explosion that’s happening in east London at the moment.”

This year’s programme includes:

- The world premiere of With Gilbert and George plus a Q&A with Director Julian Cole;

- A sneak preview of Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten plus Director Julien Temple in conversation;

- The UK premiere of John Pilger’s War on Democracy;

- Andrew MacDonald in conversation (producer 28 Weeks Later, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting);

- Lights, Couture, Action! – East End Fashion on film, featuring live performance;

- Offcuts: The Winners! – music promos and live bands;

- Cutting East – the East End’s infamous open deck night; and more than 50 short East End films shot by filmmakers operating locally, nationally and internationally.

The EEFF is funded through a partnership between Tower Hamlets Council and Hackney Council.

Opening Night Gala
With Gilbert and George – World Premiere
Thursday, April 19, 7pm Rich Mix

Filmmaker, Julian Cole first met Gilbert & George when he modelled for them in 1986. He decided that now they had photographed him he wanted to film them.

His moving portrait filmed over 17 years, traces their lives from humble beginnings to their role on the world’s artistic stage where they have performed an enduring and controversial double act for over four decades.

Banned by the authorities and panned by the critics, they are loved and hated with unprecedented ferocity. This film probes the myths and reveals the individuals that are two people inside a single artist, a permanent living sculpture in which they are compelled to be inseparable from each other and their art.

This intimate film biography helps open doors to the understanding of their unique visual language, their ‘humanistic art’ and what they believe the real legacy of the art of our times should be.

With Gilbert & George transports us out of the limelight and into the 18th Century home and studio they created together in 1969 in Spitalfields, East London. We see how their work not only documents their own remarkable and enduring artistic collaboration but also the transformation of their visually rich but financially poor, historic neighbourhood in the East End.

Introduced By Julian Cole – Followed by a Q&A.
110 mins / UK / 2007 / Dir: Julian Cole / Prod: Julian Cole, Lynn
Hanke, Mark Ayres

Closing Night Gala
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten – Sneak Preview
Thursday, April 26, 7pm Rio

As the front man of the Clash from 1977 onwards, Joe Strummer changed people’s lives forever. Four years after his death, his influence reaches out around the world, more strongly now than ever before. In The Future Is Unwritten, from British director Julien Temple (The Filth and the Fury, Glastonbury), Joe Strummer is revealed not just as a legend or musician, but as a true communicator of our times.

With unique, authorized access to Joe’s personal archives and astonishing unseen footage, Temple digs deep beneath the myths which surround the Clash and punk in general to place Joe in the broader cultural context of the world during the last half century.

The Future is Unwritten is a ripped, raw, cut-up, hand spliced patchwork of iconic images and found footage, news clips, films, TV ads and unseen home movies, purely evocative of time, place and of the individual that was Joe Strummer.

The Future Is Unwritten is a film to celebrate Joe’s life in the same style he lived it, and portrays him fully, not only as lead singer of ‘The Clash’ but also as actor, filmmaker, thinker, poet, artist, philosopher and icon.

123 mins / UK / 2007 / Dir: Julien Temple / Prod: Anna Campeau, Alan Moloney, Amanda Temple

Halal Harry – East End Showcase
Friday, April 20, 7pm Genesis

Reaz (Gurdial Sira) is stuck on the horns of a dilemma. He’s torn between his love for his religion and his love for his daughter and it’s all because of Harry Piggot.

Having fallen for Reaz’s daughter, Harry Piggot (Andrew McNair) decides to do what it takes to win the woman he loves and converts to Islam.

Harry is welcomed by many in the mosque, however some are not so accepting. Led by dubious zealot Ghoni (Kulvinder Ghir), fresh home from a pilgrimage to mecca (the bookmakers), the radicals hatch a plot. Soon it all goes disastrously wrong for Harry, leaving Reaz in the middle, forced to make a choice.

Director Russell Razzaque is a well-known writer and commentator within the Asian Community on issues surrounding second generation Muslim lifestyles in the West. Halal Harry is his first featue film.

Followed by a Q&A with Russell Razzaque.

76 mins / UK / 2005 / Dir: Russell Razzaque / Screenplay: Russell
Razzaque / Prod: Sanjay Maraj

Transylvania
Friday, April 20, 6.15pm, Rio Dalston
Monday, April 23, 6.30pm, Cineworld

Abandonded by a passionate Romanian musician who has left her pregnant, Zingarina (Asia Argento) ventures into the forbidding foreignness of Transylvania to track him down. She soon finds that although Roma life is rootless and unsettling it is also full of compassion and humanity.

When events take an unexpected turn, Zingarina discovers that to be free she must cast off her past life and embrace the possibilities that come her way, the most enticing of which is Tchango (Birol Ünel), an enigmatic traveller free of borders and home.

Transylvania is a haunting love-story, set in the hallucinatory landscapes of post-communist Romania. Directed by Tony Gatlif, (Best Director Award-winner Cannes 2004), this is a mysterious and compelling piece of filmmaking.

105 mins / France / 2006 / Dir/Prod/Screenplay: Tony Gatlif

Almost Adult (pictured)
Saturday, April 21. 3pm Rio

After losing a sister and having no knowledge of where her parents are Mamie (Victoire Milandu) 17, travels to Britain from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the hope of finding a safer life.

Immigration authorities send her to Birmingham, where she meets the fragile Shiku (Ann Warungu) 13, and, while they don’t share a language, Mamie vows to look after the younger girl and treat her like a sister.

When it is discovered they are not genuine siblings the authorities split them up. Threatened with deportation, Mamie disappears, working in exploitative conditions within the immigrant community and Shiku is put with foster parents who forbid her from having friends.

Cast from non-actors within the refugee community, this is a film about what life is like for unaccompanied child asylum seekers entering the UK . This is the first feature from award-winning short film director Yousaf Ali Khan who has earned an international reputation as a director to watch.

Followed by a Q&A with director Yousaf Ali Kahn

89 mins / UK – Germany / 2006 / Dir: Yousaf Ali Khan / Prod: Sally
Hibbin, Parallax East / Screenplay: Rona Munro

The War on Democracy – UK Premiere
Saturday, April 21, 8pm Genesis

Following the recent actions of America in the Middle East, pledging to ‘bring democracy to the world’ and instead bringing war, people in the West are showing an unprecedented disenchantment with the democracy they vote for and the version they get. Never before has most of humanity registered such alarm at the ambitions of a great power – America.

The War on Democracy, however, is a hopeful film, for it sees the world not through the eyes of the powerful, as so much of the dominant media does, but through the hopes and dreams and extraordinary actions of ordinary people. Although it is set mostly in Latin America, it is a metaphor for all the world in 2007.

Emmy and Bafta Award-winning director John Pilger has made more than 50 documentary films for ITV in Britain. The message of this latest film is a constant theme in all his work: that great, rapacious power is far from invincible and that people power is enduring.

Tickets for all screenings and events can be booked through the individual venues two weeks proir to the festival opening.

All tickets are £6/£5 concs (apart from Cineworld West India Quay: see website for details)