Saturday, July 13, 2013

Walthamstow International Film Festival

On one of the sunniest days ever seen (possibly) in London, I cycled over to the Orford Road Social Centre to check out the offerings of the WIFF. Last year this was screened as part of the E17 Art Trail, but as that has been postponed, WIFF is a stand-alone event running across the weekend.

Each bill loops over an afternoon, and while they are meant to be alphabetical, some of the films I saw are showing in the programme as being on tomorrow. Possibly issues with translated titles.

And this is quite the international bill. Probably one-third of the films I saw were in Spanish. Not sure why the WIFF has cornered this market, but E17 has a global reach, clearly. With his grandiose productions, earnest voiceovers and sweeping orchestral music, Roman Reyes is bidding for Hollywood. Either that, or he has a future in perfume commercials. Ten Years After by Jose Ramon Carralero Herrera was an amusing reflection on shyness and smoking.

Two films featured ghosts of dead people. And many, many were accompanied by banal tinkly piano music that seems to code: sensitive. Is this a new rule for shorts?

My favourite was not properly credited in the programme. A French film on a 20th century faker, it featured beautiful black and white animation and a witty script. Not sure what it was called or who made it, though.

A different bill is on tomorrow from 14-17. Will it rain?

Monday, July 01, 2013

Back to The Wick

The view from Mother Studios over Hackney Wick; photo by Val Phoenix
As we now mark the first full year of the much-touted Olympic legacy, it's sobering to consider just how much the face of East London has changed. Though deemed unsalubrious, unlovely or any other property market euphemisms, the area has always provided a home for the resourceful, the quick-witted, and, indeed, at times, the desperate. I count myself in all of those categories, as I have moved around almost all of the E postcodes during my time in London in search of some place to settle.

So it was that I found myself last night standing on the fifth floor of Mother gawping out the window across the canal at the Olympic site, tracing the path of a road I lived on many years ago crossing over the tiny bridge and.... stopping dead in its tracks at the gate to the site. Everything on the other side levelled and reduced to pavement. Wow. I hadn't seen it that way in my head.

My visit was occasioned by a screening at The Lab, an experimental film festival in Hackney Wick's booming artistic quarter. The screening started late, hampered by good weather (oh, the irony) and another screening next door. But, eventually the audience, some ensconced in inner tubes on the floor, was treated to a few of the week's winning films, as well as a selection of locally produced shorts. I had heard a lot about Hilary Powell's The Games but had never seen the whole piece, and found it a mix of amusing absurdity and trenchant comment on the nature of gentrification. Clays Lane, the allotments, those strange tyre factories. Gone.

This is what has become of Hackney Wick since I left ten years ago. Artists' warehouses, a party scene, and on the other side, the commercial behemoth of Olympic regeneration. It's an uneasy mix, even if the hipsters flocking to Crate and other businesses can enjoy better transport links and amenities than in days of yore. Still..... one sometimes yearns for the sense of post-apocalyptic tranquility that used to hang over the area back then.