This year’s East End Film Festival provided an eclectic mix of films, opening with the world premiere of The UK Gold and ending with a special performance by Karl Hyde, who delivered a mesmerising live soundtrack to Kieran Evans’s The Outer Edges. Audiences were given a peek at Ben Wheatley’s astounding A Field in England, the charming Frances Ha, and eco-thriller The East, while the Best Feature award went to Halley, an intriguing Mexican film about a physically deteriorating security guard. The festival also presented a terrific opportunity to revisit the stunning and innovative La Antena.
Electric Sheep was pleased to co-host Secret Societies, a day of screenings in the opulent and ornate surroundings of the Masonic Lodge, the perfect venue for Amando de Ossorio’s Tombs of the Blind Dead and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sante Sangre.
Below, Electric Sheep takes a look at a few more hits and misses of this year’s line-up.
The Outer Edges (Kieran Evans, 2013)
‘It’s not about the geographic route you take, it’s about the people who show you the way.’
The Outer Edges is an endearing and heartfelt collaboration between musician Karl Hyde (Underworld) and filmmaker Kieran Evans (Finnisterre) as they take us on a journey from the River Roding to the docks of the Thames, an area that Hyde refers to as ‘Edgeland’ and that forms London’s invisible borders. It’s an intriguing and somewhat neglected area of the British landscape – where the rural beauty constantly collides with industrial desolation – which Hyde and Evans manage to capture and celebrate with a visual vibrancy. Among the people interviewed along the way are an allotment gardener, a tour guide, members of a boxing club, a cabaret singer, a hot dog vender, bird watchers, and an all female bagpipe marching band from Dagenham, all of whom add poignant insight to the lyrical imagery.
Hyde’s own musings that form the narration are a bit hard to take at times. But they’re never too preachy, pretentious or whimsical, as he poetically reflects on the rarely addressed historical significance of the area, the importance of having a pastime in order to survive modern life, and how this overlooked terrain has shaped his own life. Much like the environment it’s depicting, The Outer Edges isn’t without its flaws, but it’s very rare that these hidden spaces are ever celebrated on film in such an understated and sincere way, which above all makes it a trip worth taking. RM
Watch the trailer for The Outer Edges:
Soldatte Jeanette (Daniel Hoesl, 2013)
Drawing from a tradition of European arthouse fare, Soldatte Jeanetteis one of those films where little is explained, nothing much is said, and it’s up to everyone’s willingness and imagination to make something of the slow-paced, fragmented and moody drama that unfolds on screen. In a scene that is unashamedly stylised and wooden, but intriguingly grotesque at the same time, we meet Fanny (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg) as she tries on a dress in a chic boutique in Vienna, ensnared by its persuasive salesman, who is dishing out his best lines in order to convince her to make the purchase. And Fanny does buy the dress, only to through it in the bin as soon as she leaves the shop. Not that she has plenty of money to waste – soon after, she is evicted from her spacious apartment after having lived there for 20 years, forced to change her way of life. Swapping her extravagant city existence for a tough hike through the Austrian forest, Fanni then meets Anna (Christina Reichsthaler), who works on a farm, with little to look forward to but years of drudgery ahead. It would be a shame to reveal much more here but, on the other hand, apart from the sharp cinematography and the maverick attitudes of the characters, not much direction is given as to where all this is heading. Shot with no script, on a tiny budget, and with actors conspicuously happy to develop their characters as the sparse action goes along, Soldatte Jeanetteoverindulges in the freedom of being a formal rather than comprehensible cinematic experiment, bordering on pretentious in places, but never losing control. PJ
Leones (Jazmín López, 2010)
Five teenagers wander through a secluded forest looking for a mysterious house. Waifish Isa, the film’s protagonist, is troubled by the cold, hunger and fatigue; the forest appears to be watching them; a strange recording of their voices hints at a terrible truth. The atmosphere is infected by foreboding and anticipation. And so we wait, and we wait, and we wait for something to happen. They play a banal game based on Hemingway’s six-word story. They go swimming. They play a game of invisible volleyball, which is as awful as it sounds. Isa eats a lot of fruit. There is a pointless sex scene. Isa sings Sonic Youth’s ‘Rapture’ for no apparent reason. Tension rapidly gives way to boredom. Aside from some pretentious dialogue and far too many shots of the backs of characters’ heads, nothing happens. When it does, it’s a big shrug-inducing meh. Sure, the whole thing looks nice, but as a meditation on time, mortality and metaphysics it’s a fail. There’s an interesting idea nestled at the heart of this film, and told well, it could have made a decent short. Unfortunately, those going to watch Leones will have to settle for a dull feature. SK
Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers (Havana Marking, 2013)
Using genuine surveillance footage and animated re-enactments of secret interviews, Smash & Grab tells the true story of one of the world’s most successful gangs of international diamond thieves, in a visually spectacular and compelling documentary that’s as gripping as any fictionalised equivalent.
Meticulously edited with as much attention to detail as one of the gang’s criminal operations, what initially feels like a flashy glamorisation of the criminal underworld soon develops into something far more significant. Each detailed account, from the criminals themselves to the Interpol detectives on their trail, gives amazing insight into the techniques used to perform a perfect heist and the dark network of global crime that it supports. We also get personal reflections on what motivates the criminal mind, the allure of a such a life, and how the pursuit of freedom through illegal means can lead to a loss of identity, alienation and a psychological prison of constant paranoia.
The disintegration of former Yugoslavia and its devastating repercussions are seen as a major catalyst for turning the Serbian members of The Pink Panthers onto a life of crime, with petty robberies soon escalating towards more elaborate forms of thievery on an epic scale. This tragic political climate certainly gives strong reasoning behind their illegal activities, though I did feel the film lacked any testimonials from the many witnesses who often found themselves at gunpoint while the robberies took place, who were no doubt left traumatised. Nevertheless, Smash & Grab is a thrilling and entertaining watch with enough cinematic aspirations to make it stand out. RM
Watch the trailer for Smash & Grab :
Festival report by Robert Makin, Stephanie King and Pamela Jahn