The 16th East End Film Festival (EEFF) has brightened up the summers of Hackney cinephiles since it was moved to June as part of the hectic Olympic build-up in 2012. To celebrate moving back to its original springtime slot next year, the final summer festival has been rejigged and now stretches, like a handkerchief-headed grandad in a deckchair, across five weekends all the way to July.
The first such EEFF weekend takes place just as we go to print on 2 – 3 June, when you can hot-foot it over to Old Spitalfields Market for special, free outdoor screenings of musicals Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, La La Land, and the immortal story of the Jets and the Sharks: West Side Story. Bring a non-perishable food item (or multiple) to take advantage of the free entry – Films For Food will be on hand to take the donations to Tower Hamlets Food Bank.
Otherwise, read on to find out what the remaining weekends have in store…
EAST END ROOTS (Thu 8 – Sun 11 June)
A Caribbean take on Shakespeare, deaf queer stories and a throwback to working-class East London are on the cards for the second weekend of the festival.
The weekend kicks off on polling day with Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle. Director Paul Sng (the man behind a recent documentary on electro-punks Sleaford Mods) takes a deep dive into what he thinks should be the defining issue in this election. The film premieres at Dalston’s Rio Cinema at 6:30 pm, and will be followed by a discussion with social housing representatives and filmmakers.
A lighter session will be A Caribbean Dream, Shakirah Bourne’s beautiful re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The tale explores mixed race relationships amid chaos and superstition under the full moon in Barbados. Hilarity and fantasy will ensue, again at the Rio, at 1:30pm on Friday, 9 June.
Other unmissables include My Name is Lenny by Ron Scalpello, which tells the story of Hoxton-born boxer Lenny McLean, Paa John & The Lion, a documentary about the prolific Joe Paa and his struggle to keep the bizarre craft of fantasy coffins alive, and Dana Dana, a powerful drama by Mutana Al-Rubaye, exploring the quest for meaning in London of refugee artist Mohamed.
EAST END DISCOVERY (Thu 15 – Sun 18 June)
Over ten screenings will take place in this, perhaps EEFF’s answer to Cannes’ Marché du Film, a shop window for films currently without UK distribution.
Gholam brings together two famous Iranian actors from different generations, Behrouz Behnejad and Shahab Hosseini (The Salesman), in a thriller that tells the story of a Iranian London cab driver with a haunting past.
Arifa is a bold debut for Pakistani writer-director Sadia Saeed, who has cast Shermin Hassan in the titular role in this dark comedy about a crossroads in Arifa’s life. Stand ups Jeff Mirza (Bend It Like Beckham – and winner of 1993’s Hackney Empire East West Quest, Hackney fans!) and Shazia Mirza (F**k Off, I’m a Hairy Woman) also appear as Arifa’s corrupt father and therapist respectively.
Other eye-catching selections include Eastenders veteran James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler) with his first directorial turn The Show, Daniel Draper’s documentary profile of ‘the Beast of Bolsover’ Dennis Skinner MP, and another documentary feature – The Worker’s Cup – about the embattled migrant workers on the Quatari 2022 World Cup’s own football tournament – amongst themselves.
EAST END SUBMERGE (Thu 22 – Sun 25 June)
Submerge takes on the wilder reaches of life – across the artistic spectrum as well as their presentation specifically on film. No-one did ‘wild’ quite like X-Ray Spex’s Polly Styrene, and to fundraise for a film of her life made by her daughter and others (to be called I Am A Cliche) there’ll be a night of live female-centric punk sets at The Victoria in Dalston on 23 June – keep your eyes peeled for the line-up.
Back on cinematic turf, there’ll be an explosive double-bill of Dr. Strangelove and Threads, the low-budget nuclear holocaust drama that permanently terrified a generation in the 1980s, on Sunday 25 June at Andaz London Liverpool Street – an old Masonic lodge. The day before, you can catch In Place: a series of meditations on water featuring director Michael Pattison’s take on the Lea River’s many bridges.
For those who haven’t had enough Brexit yet, and fancy a powerful, balanced insight into it that sometimes only documentary can bring, there’s Timothy George Kelly’s Brexitannia at the Rio on 23 June. This will be followed by a debate between expert Remainers and Leavers that’ll hopefully stay civil…
EAST END HEADLINE (Thu 29 June – Sun 2 July)
The fifth and final weekend of the festival East End Headline will quench the thirst of premiere seekers with a selection of films previously unseen in London cinemas.
Titles include two soul wrenching stories about the war in Syria. Oscar-nominated Matthew Heineman returns with the remarkable documentary City of Ghosts (Hackney Picturehouse, 1 July), a crude look at the realities of war and propaganda told by a group of citizen journalists fighting Isis.
Meanwhile, veteran director Philippe van Leeuw presents Insyriated (Curzon Aldgate, 1 July). This suffocating thriller chronicles a day in the life of a middle-class, Syrian family besieged at home when war breaks out.
The weekend also features two biopics based on the lives of cultural icons. The European Premiere of All Eyez On Me by Benny Boom (Hackney Picturehouse and Electric Shoreditch, 29 June) tells the story of hip-hop superstar Tupac from his early days until his drive-by murder when he was just 25. A glossier affair is Tom of Finland (Hackney Picturehouse, 29 June) by Dome Karukoski, which recounts the life and work of gay erotica artist Touko Valio Laaksonen.
Other topics touched upon on this special preview weekend include queer transgressions, teenage love and trouble, the death penalty and Jewish orthodoxy. In addition, as the finishing touch, former staffer at WikiLeaks and now correspondent for Buzzfeed James Ball will join the festival for a timely discussion on post-truth politics.
To book tickets, or for more details on all the films as well as extras like their Saturday Shorts programme, visit the EEFF website