Following a night of audiovisual spectacle on Friday, the Hackney Film Festival continued on into Saturday afternoon with a showcase of selected shorts at the Rio Cinema in Dalston.
First up, in somewhat of a coup for the festival, was the BAFTA winning Pitch Black Heist, directed by former Beta Band member John Maclean. Impressively crafted and frequently amusing, the film features turns from current Hollywood man of the moment Michael Fassbender along with Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham. Michael (Fassbender) and Liam (Cunningham, unsurprisingly) play two Irish safe crackers thrown together on a heist, with just one catch – it must be carried out in the dark to avoid tripping a light activated security system.
Not only is this a handy trick for cutting a few corners with the production budget, as Maclean himself has openly admitted, it also provides the short with one of its most imaginative scenes. During it, the screen is submerged in darkness and we can only hear the sounds of the protagonists carrying out their ill-fated scheme: “I can’t find the end of the tape!” exclaims Cunningham, much to the amusement of the audience. Another moment sees Fassbender careering drunkenly towards a pub pool table in a sumptuous slow motion shot that echoes the work of Scorcese. No doubt Maclean is a fan.
Also featured was The Pub directed by Joseph Pierce, a surreal, nightmarish animation and video mash-up, portraying the ugliest sides of alcohol as the patrons of a London bar turn into grotesque grinning animals in the mind of the woman forced to serve them. Other highlights included the delicately shot and collated mini documentary Snow, depicting the world of blindness while The Odyssey by Hackney-born director Asif Kapadia charts London’s often turbulent journey from winning the 2012 Olympics bid in 2005 right up until the event itself, featuring some particularly impressive and beautiful aerial shots of the city.
Saturday night saw the focus return to audiovisual art, with AV performer Lynn Loo presenting a work on video and 16mm involving Rothko-esque shapes and minute details of the natural world as seen through a prism of colour. Guy Sherwin’s Cycles #3 meanwhile was an unnerving journey through progressively sped-up industrial sounds and pulsating shapes, which would probably be wise to come with some sort of epilepsy sticker; at times it feels like the relentless circular images are burning a hole either in the screen or on your retina, but it’s all the more affecting for it.
Sally Golding’s performance was also memorable. Sounds of heavy breathing merge with crackling radio interference and dogs howling (or: “elephants in distress?” was one audience member’s take) to create an arresting soundscape combined with warped retro dialogue and ghostly sounds reminiscent of a sci-fi radio show about UFOs from the ’30s. The scratchy monochrome visuals complement proceedings perfectly if unnervingly.
Finally headline act Sculpture, comprising of electronic music producer Dan Hayhurst and animator Reuben Sutherland, proved worthy of their main slot with a highly enjoyable audiovisual set to round things off. Hayhurst produces electronic music ‘on the spot’ to accompany Sutherland’s live visuals. The visuals are themselves niftily created by Sutherland pointing a camcorder lens down at specially created patterned vinyl wheels, which he spins and scratches like music. It’s impressive, subversive stuff.
Sunday’s offerings began in the afternoon with the Emerging Filmmakers’ Screening at Hackney Picturehouse. The audience voted for their favourites of the newcomers’ shorts, with film masterclass prizes eventually awarded to Andrew Hill and Richard Chua for As I Got Older, the story of an ex-gang member living in Hackney, Amelia Abraham’s Alexis: Blurred Lines, an insightful documentary about a 24 year-old transgender person undergoing facial surgery and Lottie Kingslake’s Forget Me Not, a highly accomplished and aesthetically pleasing animation in which a market flower seller narrates the tale of a memory-less man.
The festival culminated with the highly anticipated Q&A screening of Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair’s Swandown (review to follow).