Category Archives: East End Film Festival

East End Film Festival: The Outsider – Review

A couple of years ago, there was a film called The Big Short. It is basically about the 2008 Banking Crisis. Instead of being an intimate look at those on the ground who lost all of their money due to some terrible decisions by people who would probably sneer at “common folk,” the film focused on the men who saw an opportunity to earn some cash, playing a twisted game to profit off the financial issues.

I legitimately hated this film. Though conceptually brilliant, there was a lack of soul and focused on the wrong people. It’s hard to feel any sympathy for those who try to accumulate wealth in deceitful manners. And whilst shitty things can happen to the rich, when presenting their problems to a broader audience, it’s difficult to gain sympathy from anyone on the big screen.

That’s the main problem I’ve have with The Outsider. Because, as quirky as subject Nobu Su is, it’s hard to feel anything for him or care with what is going on in the film. Directed Tom Meadmore, the movie revolves around Su who is a massive shipping magnate. When the whole fiasco happened with the Crisis,

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Here’s the frustrating thing about The Outsider. Su is great. He has come from humble backgrounds, he earned a lot of cash, and is now wondering why he is struggle business-wise. See? That’s a pretty savvy focus to have – Su is weirdly humorous despite his circumstances and his oddity adds a great character into the mix of a film that is pretty gosh-darn dull.

But the film doesn’t focus on him as a deep character study, instead jolts across the screen with graphics. It gets bogged down with banking jargon that, you know, also plagued The Big Short. It is really hard to care about the banking crisis and you lose all will to invest time in The Outsider because it harps too much on explaining what went wrong in jittery cartoons than digger deeper into Nobu.

Because the film also holds back on darker elememts of Su’s world. There is a better story here with his marriage and his ex-wife isn’t even interviewed. They broke up because of the whole affair and it never is explored into greater detail. It’s like this whole missing part looming over the film, making it less complex and pretty bog-standard.

The documentary relies on the exuberance of Su alone and stays splashing around in the paddling pool, afraid to find much more depth. It makes for a floating and tedious piece of film.

The Outsider plays at East End Film Festival on 20th April 

East End Film Festival: Hippopotamus – Review

by Kirsty Jones 

Hippopotamus is the debut feature from Edward Palmer; a story of captivity, or so we’re led to believe. Ruby wakes up in a cell, legs broken and face-to-face with her captor who tells her that she cannot leave until she falls in love with him. His threat is not sexual but emotional, which immediately jars against what we would expect. Men prey on women for control and sexual gratification, right? Not Thomas Allcroft… His demands are reminiscent of a Rumpelstiltskin-esque predicament, an unfair imprisonment of an innocent fair maiden. Tom repeats his lines, he’s done this before, so much so he’s ready with the questions Ruby has before she asks them.

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These opening sequences of Palmer’s film are slow but methodical. As you begin to feel at ease with the gentle rhythm, a simple sequence of Ruby moving across the room before being caught turns the drama electrifying. She learns what she can, with the little at her disposal and just as we see an increase in tact and determination to get out, Tom is on to her and fights back with a bottle of pills, leaving her to wake once again with no memory.

Back to square one. Frustration. Remorse. Now what? We see the cycle repeat, the same routine, the same words from Tom, the same reaction from Ruby. The realisation that this may have happened countless times before makes that uneasy feeling I’ve got deepen. But it’s in one encounter with her captor when Ruby’s demeanour changes and she flicks Tom an insincere smile, the prospect of flirting for freedom becomes real and sickening all at the same time. What lengths will she have to go to in order to escape? With each chapter, we see another layer of the story unfold until ultimately, we’re left questioning the roles we were so sure about at the start.

Shooting a one-room feature film is a difficult prospect that only a few have truly succeeded in. Palmer tackles the task in a measured way, instead of filling the runtime with unnecessary dramas the story ebbs and flows in a control way. The cinematography plays as much of a part in the reluctant progression of the narrative as the two leads, spanning the small space giving us a to-and-fro perspective. All the while, the captee and the captor navigate around each other in a way that is theatrical, dance-like. Both Invild Deila (Ruby) and Stuart Mortimer (Tom), have a huge weight on their shoulders as their performances, and the on-screen relationship between them, must carry the film. Not only do they pull it off, they are both incredibly enjoyable to watch.

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Palmer’s feature film was developed from a short film of the same name, concept, and cast. Which to be frank, I would not have guessed, everything in Palmer’s plot seems intentional, I can’t imagine a shorter version having the same impact. Having said that, some of the back story that is revealed throws up more questions than they answer. And while the entire plot may not be water-tight, there’s a playfulness that comes across in Palmer’s crafting which holds great promise for his future projects. I’m looking forward to what this bright young director turns his hand to next.

Hippopotamus screens at East End Film Festival on 19th April! 

East End Film Festival: Don’t Be Nice – Review

I adore slam poetry. I just love it. I love listening to it, I love creating it, and I love being a part of it. Though people have this bizarre stereotype for poets, especially slam poets, the emotionally charged medium is filled with all shapes and sizes confronting not just the society around them but the faults within them. It is always intense, always engaging, and always so intelligently creative.

Don’t Be Nice, a brand new documentary movie from Max Powers (no, really,) looks at this world of words in a brilliant way.

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Don’t Be Nice follows Lauren Whitehead, a slam poetry coach as she selects a small team of performers to take to the National Championship during the racially charged 2016 summer. During the creative process, Whitehead urges her team to face emotions that run deep within them and comes across headstrong talents who are sheepish about taking that journey inward. Battling it out against other groups, this Brooklyn based team must learn to listen together, craft together, and work together in order to succeed, not just winning the competition, finding their own voice. 

In similar respects to last year’s documentary Step, Don’t Be Nice looks at how racial tensions can impact creative. Young BAME writers look to excavate their emotions and how they connect to a much bigger world. There are social viewpoints raised about being a young black person in America or how different sections of abuse can radically alter your person and, indeed, your perspective of the world. Whitehead is an impeccable teacher who pushes the boundaries of her student’s work. She is eager to see them flourish not just for the sake of the competition, but for themselves and their talents. It’s interesting to watch her shape their work and feed off one another to write some great art.

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Powers’ documentary flows because of their and at times breaks the mould from bog-standard observation  in order to showcase the poetry in daily life. Ashley August’s Octan***** is told in a New York station that is decorated with sea-life, fitting into her metaphor of being called “over-dramatic” and to see this kinetic piece in a real-world setting adds another layer to the film. That being said, this technique is used twice and, perhaps, should be used consistently throughout. There’s also an inter-spliced with news stories revolving around unjust deaths at the hands of the police and the Black Lives Matter movement, informing more angered (yet impeccable) poems.

Of course, the highlight here is all the poetry and the performers. The energy and creativity that flows from these young performers results in some genius performances. Their collaborative Google Black is one of the most phenomenal pieces I’ve ever seen, seconded only by Timothy DuWhite’s So He Called Me A F*****.  When they stand on stage, magic happens and goosebumps will rise from you.

Powers’ work is tantalising and breathing with life. Bursting with vibrant slam poetry, this documentary is an interesting look at a writer’s life and the atrocities of society that may inform it.

Don’t Be Nice screens at East End Film Festival on 21st April! 

East End Film Festival: The Solace of Orpheus – Review

I don’t mean to open this up being overtly critical but I think we need to talk about film festivals for a second. When a movie appears at a film festival, it automatically gets itself a certain prestigious reputation and many assume these are at the forefront of cinema. Especially if they are independent filmmakers, a promise of what’s to come.

However, as many regular film goer would know, this is a lie – there is a lot of drudgery to get through. While I don’t want to be pointing a specific finger, but The Solace of Orpheus is one of those very hard-slogs.

Directed by Niall Donegan and Elliot Vick, The Solace of Orpheus revolves around a couple who travel to the Mourne Mountains in Ireland. However, their trip is filled with many different obstacles as they begin to heal their relationship. Can they survive?

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The biggest issue I have with independent films such as The Solace of Orpheus is dialogue; how it is written and how it is delivered (and, also, if we are here, how it is recorded.) I am not saying it is the worse dialogue I’ve heard in my life but there were certainly parts where I wanted to tear off my cardigan and stuff it tightly into my ears. This is a massive issue because this is a film about relationships and the strain that can often occur. That means that 90% of the screen time is pure dialogue which is insufferable when it is forced out. There are the most awful pauses, some wickedly wooden deliveries, and absolute nonsense coming out of the characters lips. It’s contentious as to whether this stilted element of the movie is because the performers aren’t very good or the script-writer has absolutely no idea how to write people. What I am sure about is that everyone involved with this movie have probably never heard another human speak for an almighty long time before being thrust awkwardly onto the screen and asked to interact with one another.

I don’t mean to harp on about this but this is a particular issue that comes with romantic dramas. People talk in metaphors and interpretations that come across has glib and, yes, pretentious. It doesn’t feel realistic, just someone trying to be clever, and that stretches thinly across the films plot becoming irritating  in the process.

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Side note: This is definitely the quickest film I’ve seen to say it’s title.

This a low budget film and that shows. The cinematography, the hues of grey and green that typically sparkle with the Emerald Isles, making the film look beautiful despite there not being a grand amount of high-end technology being and scene set up here is wasted upon the uneasy performers and the appalling dialogue.

The Solace of Orpheus is a hard slog. It’s like trekking through a mountain in the rain and sleet, accompanied by the most bothersome person in the world. It’s wonderful to look at, but there is causes more exhaustion than excitement; more pain and poignancy; more boredom than beauty.

Unlike the titular character, this is definitely one film that you won’t look back on.

The Solace of Orpheus screens at East End Film Festival on 19th April 

East End Film Festival 2018: Super November – Review

Super November is directed by Douglas King, starring and written by his frequent collaborator Josie Long, and is the story of a politically charged librarian (Long) in Scotland who’s fallen head over heels for the seemingly perfect man Mikey (Sean Biggerstaff), to the annoyance of best friend and flat mate Darren (Darren Osbourne).  Six months later, the film swiftly moves on to tale of political turmoil as Josie and her friends are fighting to survive in a period of civil unrest.

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Super November is an admirable film; there are few films that dare to take such a jarring approach to it’s story telling, with a complete and utter tonal shift taking place halfway through the film. Long’s screenplay hits on all cylinders. Impressively, it maintains a consistent quality despite changing everything up half way through. The first half is an excellent depiction of a tender romance story that tackles the dream like, honeymoon stage of a relationship before the more upsetting reality of it sits in. The second half achieves an anxiety ridden struggle to make it through day to day life that is incredibly timely given the current political climate. That said, the film’s shift probably shouldn’t be so surprising because the politics are present for the entire run time; it’s not presented as a subtle undertone, but rather the centrepiece to many scenes and conversations and not in a way that feels shoehorned or heavy handed.

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What compliments Long’s screenplay is King’s direction, as well as the cinematography that takes a compassionate approach to the love story and a terrifying one to the political discourse; the use of close ups in it’s opening scene, simply focusing on Long and Biggerstaff’s faces as they get cutesy on a drunken date sets the tone for the rest of this story line, and consistently delivers on it’s ups and downs. When things take a turn, the use of camera becomes far more harsh to set in stone the bleak and harrowing nature of life in Scotland at this time. The film is incredibly well paced for it’s length; at a mere 80 minutes long, the film explores all of it’s themes and characters to a satisfying degree without leaving any stories unfulfilled but also not bogging it down with exposition. It gets it’s point across and doesn’t need to try any harder to achieve what it’s doing. On top of all that, the lead performance by Josie Long is simply intoxicating; the whole cast are great, with Darren Osbourne in particular giving a great performance, but this far and away Long’s film and she owns it entirely. She effortlessly makes you feel her glee, her passion, her turmoil, her depression and her fear to ensure that this entire journey is as effective as possible. The entire film is good, but it’s this starring role that seals the deal.

Super November is an ambitious and brave low budget feature with an exhilarating lead performance.

Super November screens at the East End Film Festival on 20th April 2018.

East End Film Festival: Tigre – Review

There are parts of this rich, rich world that are unknown or undiscovered to us. Idyllic spaces of vast greenery, dream-like water flowing copiously through the leaves and soils, and creatures of all-kinds creeping across the jungle floor. Within these spaces, not coveted by most Western eyes, are communities of people thriving on their own accord. In these pockets of isolation, there are equal bouts of conflict – whether it is war, survival, or even fractions of the same family, battling invisible horns upon their forehead for dominance.

Tigre is a film that floats between this sentiments with wonderful cohesiveness and precision.

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Directed by in Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola’s rich, seductive debut film revolves around sixty-five year old Rina who has spent her time away from her home in the deep Argentinian Tigre Delta. When developers threaten to repossess the land, Rina revisits her family, alongside her forty-something friend Elena. With hopes to reconnect with her adult son at the same time, the pair head back with tension already mounted on their shoulders.. As emotions broil in the hot summer sun, Rina finds herself confronting her past that had been buried for a mighty long time.

Tigre is teaming with absolute poignant and battered emotion as worlds, ages, religions, and preservation as generations meet in similarities and differences. The stifling attitudes of both the young and the old as their tribes attempt to pull forward against a whole new world. There is a constant threat that looms over the collective here and it is not just the bulldozers nipping at the jungle in attempt to flatten this seemingly quiet place. As sexuality and religion become forefront of the pieces, tensions broil over in this seductively beautiful piece.

None of this would be at all possible if it weren’t for Schnicer’s accomplished script and the mesh of performances that excavate the pulp and the grit that comes with both ageing and being young at the same time. Marilú Marini, María Ucedo, and Agustín Rittano are brilliantly as the middle-aged to elderly cast whereas María Ucedo, Magalí Fernández. Ornella D’Elia, and Tomás Raimondi, row along as the young fraction of the screen. There are absolutely impeccable performances here that bring life to this complex and brilliant film.

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Technically superb, with sound-design and cinematography beating with visual and aural intensity allows a view to see the beauty around them. Tigre melts with palpable explosions that simmer in the decadent heat of the vast Delta. As physical destruction edges closer and closer to the thicket of people in personal turmoil, as does the ruinous attitudes of everyone battling against one another in a matriarchal backlash of ideals. It’s amazingly succinct and incredibly engrossing to watch in this shimmer of green, wave of nightmarish water, and creatures crawling across the floor.

Tigre screens at East End Film Festival on 15th July