Now entering its 16th year, East End Film Festival (EEFF) is preparing for a radical reboot including a move to the spring for 2018. Ahead of those changes, EEFF will say goodbye to its usual summer slot in style with a mammoth cinematic celebration spanning 5 epic long weekends throughout the WHOLE OF JUNE 2017. Marking the festival’s longest ever and most unconventional run, each weekend will sharply focus on five of EEFF’s core values: utilising non-cinema venues, engaging with diverse audiences, supporting emerging filmmakers, breaking artistic boundaries and premiering bold, challenging and vital new films.
EEFF breaks the mould with its radical festival structure for 2017, yet stays true to form with an impressive line-up of films and events across London’s East End. Highlights include premieres of biopics of international cultural icons Tupac Shakur (All Eyez On Me) and Tom Of Finland, documentaries probing subjects as diverse as Brexit (Brexitannia) and America’s Death Penalty (The Penalty, screening in conjunction with Amnesty International UK), and new works from emerging first- and second-time filmmakers (over 60% of the films are by first- or second-time directors) including the debut feature from former Eastenders actor James Alexandrou (The Show) and a confident debut from British/Iranian filmmaker Mitra Tabrizian (Gholam).
SCREENINGS UNDER THE STARS
The 16th edition of East End Film Festival commences with EAST END OUTDOORS (Fri 2 & Sat 3 June). This weekend of FREE outdoor screenings at Old Spitalfields Market is themed around iconic musicals, in partnership with Films For Food supporting Tower Hamlets Food Bank (free admission with donation of non-perishable food items). Highlights include a family-friendly matinee of the 1968 British musical classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and an East End screening of West Side Story. The weekend concludes with a special outdoor screening of La La Land.
COMMUNITY & HERITAGE
Reflecting the energy, artistry, attitude and cultural mix of London’s East End, the second weekend EAST END ROOTS (Thu 8 – Sun 11 June) focuses on films and events with local resonance. These include the special World Premiere screening at Bethnal Green’s York Hall of My Name is Lenny (dir: Ron Scalpello, UK). With a cast including real-life prize fighter Michael Bisping, as well as John Hurt in one of his final acting roles, it tells the story of Lenny McLean aka the Guv’nor, one of Britain’s most notorious bare-knuckle fighters. On the eve of the General Election is the World Premiere of Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle (dir: Paul Sng, UK), ruthlessly exposing Britain’s social housing scandal, followed by an election night panel discussion. Multi-cultural features include the UK Premiere of A Caribbean Dream (dir: Shakirah Bourne, UK/Barbados), a Barbados-set re-imagining of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, and the World Premiere of Dana Dana (dir: Mutana Al-Rubaye, UK/Iraq), about an Iraqi musician forced to choose between a big break in his musical career and his refugee status.
THE BEST NEW UNSIGNED FILMS
Championing breakthrough film and homegrown talent, the EAST END DISCOVERY (Thu 15 – Sun 18 June) weekend is a shop window showcasing features and documentaries currently without UK distribution: the best new and unsigned films from emerging directors. Following his role in Oscar-winning The Salesman, Iranian actor Shahab Hosseini takes the title role in the European Premiere of Gholam (dir: Mitra Tabrizian, UK) as a man haunted by his past and with a future sliding towards inertia. A troubled young actor with an East End theatre company for the homeless romances a wealthy out-of-towner in the European Premiere of Forgotten Man (dir: Arran Shearing, UK/Canada). The European Premiere of Arifa (dir: Sadia Saeed, UK) focuses on a young British Pakistani woman who becomes fixated on an oddball gamer, just as her absentee father returns. Exploring how a financial decline affects a group of young friends, the World Premiere of S|T|R|A|Y|S (dir: Barnaby Miller, UK) is an unflinching depiction of modern London that blurs the lines between real life and animation. The first feature from former Eastenders actor James Alexandrou, the World Premiere of The Show (dir: James Alexandrou, UK) sees a young TV star confronting grief and fame in the run-up to her first stage play.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker David France (How To Survive A Plague from EEFF2012) documents a legendary fixture of New York’s gay ghetto in the London Premiere of The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (dir: David France, USA) – structured as a whodunit, it celebrates Marsha’s lasting political legacy while seeking to solve the mystery of her unexplained death. Documenting a political fighter, the London Premiere of Dennis Skinner: Nature of the Beast (dir: Daniel Draper, UK) portrays the committed socialist, trade unionist and veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, affectionately named the ‘Beast of Bolsover’. Three Hackney-based filmmakers follow a $10 bill as it criss-crosses the United States in the European Premiere of Follow the Money (dir: John Hardwick, Ben Unwin, Steve Boggan, UK), building a unique and surprising portrait of the American people. The London Premiere of fiction/documentary hybrid Drib (dir: Kristoffer Borgli, Norway) re-enacts the story of a failed violent marketing campaign for a well-known energy drink. African and Asian migrant workers building Qatar’s 2022 World Cup facilities compete in their own tournament in the London Premiere of documentary The Workers Cup (dir: Adam Sobel, USA).
The weekend includes EEFF’s industry-focused ‘Unpacking British Cinema’, which this year unpacks The Hippopotamus (dir: John Jencks, UK) including an extended panel discussion with cast and crew. It also sees the launch of EEFF’s new £10,000 Mind The Gap ‘Transit Film Award’.
CROSS-ARTS, CULTURE, MUSIC, MAYHEM
If any film festival knows how to break the mould, it’s EEFF. Hence the EAST END SUBMERGE (Thu 22 – Sun 25 June) weekend includes cross-arts and culture, music and mayhem, and plenty of partying. Highlights include a massive costumed TWIN PEAKS BALL taking over Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel, and a programme of screenings in the hotel’s hidden Masonic Temple including an Alex Cox acid-western double bill of Walker and Straight to Hell, plus BBC TV’s 1984 nuclear war drama Threads. On 23 June, the first anniversary of the Brexit vote, EEFF present the London Premiere of Brexitannia (dir: Timothy George Kelly, UK/Russia), a funny, sometimes terrifying and non-judgemental look at new populist politics, followed by a panel discussion with opinions from all sides of the debate.
Other venues including Castle Cinema, Hackney’s new crowdfunded community cinema, host special events including the World Premiere of My Name is Swan dir: Adam Carr, UK), an odyssey of loss in a shifting cityscape with music by Samuel Kilcoyne and Takatsuna Mukai and a poem by Jan Noble, a live performance with Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair of experimental documentary Edith Walks, a programme of artists films from Bethnal Green artist collective no.w.here, a live soundtrack from East India Youth, and a female punk night raising funds for a documentary about X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene.
PREMIERES OF BIG NEW INDEPENDENT FILMS
Discover the next wave of must-see films at EAST END HEADLINE (Thu 29 June – Sun 2 July). For its fifth and final weekend of 2017, EEFF introduces a handpicked selection of titles on their way to Britain’s cinemas. This weekend opens with the UK Premiere of Butterfly Kisses (dir: Rafael Kapelinski, UK). Shot in a raw documentary style, it follows three friends battling with their own demons in a teenage world that revolves around sex and porn.
Other major titles being shown to London cinema audiences for the very first time during this special preview weekend include two biopics based on the lives of two cultural icons whose legacies continue to grow long after their passing. The red carpet gala European Premiere of All Eyes On Me (dir: Benny Boom, USA) chronicles prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur from his early days to his untimely death at the age of 25. The London Premiere of Tom of Finland (dir: Dome Karukoski, Finland) explores the life and work of one of the most influential figures of 20th-century gay culture. From botched executions to wrongful convictions, the World Premiere of The Penalty (dir: Will Francome, USA/UK) questions our thoughts about the death penalty, screening in conjunction with Amnesty International UK. A tender drama performed entirely in Yiddish, the London Premiere of Menashe (dir: Joshua Z Weinstein, USA) sees a widower in Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community battle for custody of his son. And James Ball, formerly of WikiLeaks and now Buzzfeed, will be joining the festival for a special discussion around the subject of post-truth politics.
+ SATURDAY SHORTS (every Saturday in June)
A platform for films and filmmakers of all shapes and sizes, every weekend during the festival will include a day dedicated to the art of short filmmaking. This weekly injection of short film screenings, networking and socialising confirms EEFF as a home-from-home for east London’s short filmmaking community.