Saturday, July 21, 2007

Portobello Film Festival Launch Party

Cobden Club, London
18 July 2007

Although the PFF held a launch some months ago, this was the one to launch this year's programme, which makes more sense. Held again at the Cobden Club, the programme featured a night's worth of short films, accompanied by loud chatter and free beers (the last two possibly linked).

Although I didn't stay for the full duration, being an eastie and thus at the mercy of London Transport, I saw a good range of work which will be presented at the festival from 1 to 22 August (

Among the best were some experimental docs. J Is for Julie made intriguing use of home movies and snaps to trace the life of filmmaker Carol Burns's mother from her youth as a Jew in Hitler's Europe to her death as an emigre in London. The pictures were almost entirely stills but still very dynamic and affecting. It helped that the subject was so intriguing: Julie described herself as a "Jewish Christian Marxist" and found it difficult to finid a place for herself. Not surprising.

Colourful EU was Peter Vadocz's witty depiction of the flags of the EU countries found in everyday objects such as office supplies. At two minutes it flew by.

Baron Samedi, by Dan MacMillan started off brilliantly as it set up a haunting backdrop to explore the legend of blues player Robert Johnson. Then it turned into a Marilyn Manson video and I lost interest.

As far as fiction films went, they were more hit and miss. Green Pages, an alleged comedy by Sasha C. Danjanovski, was lost in the chatty confines of the Cobden and went on way too long anyway.

Film Eight, by Dan Gitsham, was well made and quite amusing but was listed as Horror. Surely some mistake?

Slap, a drama by Uriel Emil about domestic violence, I found a bit disturbing because it seemed to end on an inappropriate comic note. A matter of interpretation perhaps.

The festival has a real sense of place, dwelling on the psychogeography of the area and making use of historic venues. Among the offerings are Julien Temple's Joe Strummer doc, The Future Is Unwritten, and a photo exhibit from The Roughler Gallery Archive.

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