East End Film Festival: Our lucky 13th year

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WHAT'S ON

By Lucia Blash

It started out as a tiny local authority initiative screening a handful of locally-made short films. Now the East End Film Festival (EEFF) has become one of the UK's largest international events of its kind.

This month sees the festival celebrating its 13th anniversary with 15 world, eight European, 25 UK and 15 London premieres.

With a special focus on the new wave in Mexican cinema co-curated by Mexican director Sebastian Hoffman; and Q&As with a host of top directors and actors, the two week-long event promises to cement its position not only in the UK but as an influential player on the world stage.

"It's our 13th year - we're kind of taking it as a lucky sign. We're taking it as our coming of age," said festival director Alison Poltock, when The Wharf caught up with her earlier this week. "I'm determined to make this the best ever East End Film Festival - a proper coming of age celebration as EEFF enters its teenage years."

Under Alison's six-year directorship EEFF has grown exponentially, showcasing talent from around the world, and establishing itself as a festival of discovery, with a focus on supporting first and second time feature film makers.

"We are showing films that would not normally be seen on the big screen. These films are first or second features [from directors] and won't be screened at your local Odeon or Vue.

"We are becoming known as a springboard for filmmakers," said Alison. "Our audiences will see new and exciting, often challenging and sometimes a bit controversial work that perhaps they will not see elsewhere.

"That's what makes it really exciting - and that's how we get new and unusual work that otherwise wouldn't be shown."

Although the festival is now an international fixture it remains true to its East End roots, with Alison mindful of ensuring the event remains inclusive.

As well as supporting local filmmakers and showcasing films shot on location in the area, the EEFF lays on a host of free activities for the community from public screenings, over-60s film showcases to music events and special workshops for families including one with award-winning Wallace & Gromit makers Aardman.

"The heart of the festival is in the East End so that's not going to change. We want to support the communities and the culture in the East End.

"It is an incredibly creative area, with probably one of the most interesting histories in the UK," said Alison.

"We don't want to be exclusive - we're not Cannes. We want to be a festival that's open to everyone that's why we try to do as much as we can to be a festival for all.

"There is no snobbery whatsoever. Often people worry that it's 'arthouse' cinema so it's not really for them. The thing is all arthouse means is that it [the film] doesn't get a wide release. I want people just to come down to see these films - they will love them."

East End Film Festival opens on Friday, June 13 and runs until June 25. For a line up of screenings and events, go to eastendfilmfestival.com.

EAST VILLAGE EVENTS

Head to Stratford's East Village for a weekend of football and food on a massive outdoor screen, as part of the East End Film Festival.

Saturday, June 14
Football Focus
England's first game in the Brazilian World Cup will be screened live with a selection of short films shot around the world and a broadcast by the channel from the East Village "pitch".

Aardman Animations
Morph creators Aardman Animations will return to the East End Film Festival hosting a Build-Your-Own Morph event, where veteran model maker Jim Parkyn from Aardman will guide visitors through a crash course in Morph-making. Booking is essential.

Sunday, June 15
Food Focus
The first public screening of Chef will be shown in a gourmet combination of films, food and families. Jon Favreau's film is the story of a man who loses his restaurant job and decides to start up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. Co-stars Robert Downey Jr.