As festivals go, the East End Film Festival is one of the shaggier. The problem is, it finds itself caught between two stools: it’s both a festival celebrating East London filmmaking and a film festival that happens to be based in East London.
The programme is dotted with things that have only a notional connection to the East London area, such as its gala screening of the documentary The Libertines - There Are No Innocent Bystanders.
There are also seemingly random events, such as a screening of Taxi Driver “presented” by Adrian Utley from Portishead, or a screening of the director’s cut of Ken Russell’s The Devils.
Either would be a treat to go and see, but what’s the connection? Perhaps the randomness of it all is meant to reflect the idiosyncratic nature of the East End, but it’s hard to not flick through the festival programme and wish there was a bit more shape.
What separates a film festival from being a collection of interesting films to being something truly special, is a sense of there being a curatorial impulse - the idea that the screened films can illuminate things about each other by their presence together.
This doesn’t mean that the festival isn’t filled with worthwhile films and events, but I can’t imagine someone seeing a programmed afternoon by Guillemotsduring the Camden Crawl feeling inclined to check out the strong Romanian strand in the Festival’s European section, or vice versa.
You could do either and still have a great time, of course, but you might not feel like you’re a part of something. Sometimes that’s enough, if you see a good film. But perhaps a great film festival is one where you see a bad one and that’s still okay.