Hackney Film Festival 2012

The Pub film Hackney Film Festival 2012

Still from The Pub, (Haggerston 2012), director Joseph Pierce

Hackney Film Festival (HFF) unfurls across the borough this weekend. The festival will draw in reputable arts institutions such as the Rio, the Hackney Picturehouse, and Café Oto.

The screening will begin in earnest on Saturday, with Asif Kapadia’s The Odyssey and John Mclean’s Pitch Black Heist set to be among the highlights of independent and BAFTA award-winning short films whittled down from over 100 submissions.

Kapadia, a high-profile director of films such as Senna, is effusive about his involvement, explaining the genesis of his documentary focusing on London over the last seven years in the run-up to the Olympics: “It was commissioned by the BBC and FilmFour together.

“Four different groups of directors were asked to make films as part of the Cultural Olympiad, and they could be about the Olympics, or not about the Olympics…one of the other films was made by Mike Leigh, another by Lynn Ramsay – and they asked me.

“The other three films are dramas, so I decided to do something a bit different – I did a documentary. Having lived here all my life, I hadn’t really shot that many films here, so it became a film about London, dealing with 2005 – when London won the right to host the games – up until 2012, just before the Games started.

“The audio – the sound – is the voices of Londoners. I’ve gone out and interviewed people, I’ve got archive stuff – all to get a cross-section of people who are pro the Games and against the Games, just to get a sense of what’s happened, particularly to East London – and how it’s changed in that period.”

Hackney native Kapadia insists that while he is “pro-Olympics and pro-sport”, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the high-profile problems that have taken place in the capital since the Games were awarded:  “Because of the financial crisis, lots of schools are still losing their playgrounds; lots of facilities for youth have been removed.

“Then, a year before the Games happened, we had the rioting, a lot of which happened in Tottenham and Hackney.

“So the idea was to deal with these issues, right from the 7/7 bombings up until the looting. Of course, we all know now in hindsight that it (the Games) has been an amazing thing that’s brought the whole country together, but the film was made just before that…

“It was important that the film dealt with some of the unhappiness that’s because of what’s happened to the city during that period of seven years.”

The Hackney Film Festival won’t just be about acclaimed short films, of course. Later Saturday evening, the action will move down the road to Café Oto for ‘Expanded Cinema’, where DIY multimedia collage duo Sculpture will merge electronic sound and visuals in the headlining slot.

Dan Hayhurst, one half of the duo, has this to say on their involvement and what to expect: “Steven (from the HFF) had seen our film Olympic Sized Tantrum – the HFF screened it last year. This year we’re invited to play…

“The animation and the music are both the product of chaotic ongoing assemblage processes, and it’s exciting for us and for the audience to see and hear that, and not know exactly what’s about to happen…there are repeatable(ish) routines and improvised sections [in our set]. It’s visual music and audible pictures”.

The festival will also include an appearance by Iain Sinclair, author of London Orbital and Hackney, That Red Rose Empire, who has collaborated with director Andrew Kötting to produce the existential travelogue documentary Swandown.

The film will be screened on the Carlton London, situated on the canal in Hackney Wick, with Sinclair and Kötting taking part in a Q&A.

With the closing ceremony of the Paralympics fittingly looking on just up the road, it promises to be a very special climax to the weekend’s events.

For full programme details go to Hackney Film Festival.