The 1st Hackney Film Festival took place on the 18th and 19th of September in venues around Hackney, it was organized by a group of young filmmakers and film enthusiasts with the intention to celebrate the borough and all the talent that they see there a daily basis. The weekend at the HFF was eclectic and fun and the events were completely independently run, “funded entirely by the community” – as Steve proclaimed in his final thank you’s!
A festival that should’ve existed given the reputation of Hackney and its artist residents didn’t before this. Now, 2010 has marked the first annual HFF. Made up of three events, it was a two-day festival that covered a scope of film and video related work. The only criteria for those wishing to submit films was that it would be produced by Hackney-based artists and filmmakers. This inceptive year was an extensive celebration of the visual talent and communal thematic interests coming out of the borough.
The first screening took place at the majestic Rio Cinema on Kingsland Road. The “red carpet” event of the Festival opened the two days drawing in “film-heads” from all over London. There screened nine diversely formatted short films: narrative film, conceptual animations, explorative documentaries, music-lead experimentals, factual, surreal, and thought provoking.
The Festival opened with Kingsland, a 21minute narrative by Tony Grisoni. A screen-writer who has worked on a number of widely received features including “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, he had recently turned his attention to the plight of asylum seekers from Afghanistan in his film “In this World”. Here at the HFF, Kingsland profiled a young Kurdish man trying to make it in the Turkish community’s underground work force of Dalston Kingsland. Ethnic differences within the community itself leads to the harshness of the greater east London realities. A powerful film that marked the seriousness of the Festival it just opened.
Pleasantly surprised, each of the films showed was of a very high technical, aesthetic and content caliber. But the impressive diversity of cultures portrayed through the films was very warming and showed a different prospective to what is popularly seen as arty, trendy Hackney, and that is its historical and contemporary ethnic wealth. “Schlamozeltov!” looked at the Jewish concept of luck with beautiful photography and captivating narration; “Suburban Madness” took the audience to the Carnival of Brazil where a group of psychiatric patients joined in the gray area that makes the street party of Rio: between the strand of Brazilian tradition and the harmonizing properties of drum beating mayhem is the madness of it all. “The Lost Coin” attempts to give a lesson in life through its 4minute journey to various worlds through the various animation styles: a quirky and inventive delight with an unexpected ending.
After the screening, the HFF moved down Stoke Newington to The Others to present a different dynamic of what film and video art offers. Moving away from the narrative, a line up of Hackney-based audio-visual artists performed their music to their own accompanying visuals. Between acts, the screens projected original historical footage of Hackney (put together by my self) furnished by the Borough of Hackney Council Archives. These films silently portrayed grand national and local historical events throughout Hackney such as the 1953 Coronation festivities, 1946 Victory Day parade, some town variety shows and a regal visit from the Queen also circa 1950. The event showcased a great contrast of projections between cool contemporary video art and archival history-on-film.
The night dwindling into major party effects kept people reminding each other that there was more to come the next day!
And come it did, at The Drop – an open room with a large screen downstairs from the Three Crowns Pub on Stoke Newington High Street. Another charged up screening with people at the back on their tippy-toes squirming to see above the heads behind the seated audience. The modest room was packed with people trickling up the stares. Again, an eclectic choice of films ranging from music-based animation, dramatic cartoons, filmed mind trips, a comedy about the Grim Reaper in love, and so many others. Among the visually and emotionally striking ones was the heart felt film, “Chasing the Dragon”. An ex-heroin addict speaks to the camera, allowing himself to be filmed living his life and sharing his story about how he helped himself and now others recover from addiction by caring for nature. Also a local from Shoreditch, Paul, the protagonist of the film’s, presence at the festival confirmed a type of life that breathes in and out of film: its production, modes of storytelling and finally, affirmation through its reception.
The team that lead the event had a great art-and-community based synergetic aim in mind that played out beautifully. The planning, designing, curating and outreach were impressively executed for something that was purely and completely by the people who live and work in Hackney. The neighborly support was overwhelming. It was the common murmur among the attending crowd that next year’s Hackney Film Festival should definitely pick up on this and grow.
visit the official webpage: http://www.hackneyfilmfestival.com/
see more pictures of the event on the Hackney Film Festival FlickR page.