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The FIrst Annual Hackney Film Festival

A group of young film enthusiasts got together to organize a two day film festival in east London's most innovative borough. The first Hackney Film Festival took place across Stoke Newington and Kingsland High Streets. The events not only showcased films of the highest technical and creative caliber, but offered a wide array of themes as well as forms of film and video talent.

The 1st Hackney Film Festival took place on the 18th and 19th of September in venues around Hackney. It was organized by a group of young film enthusiasts looking to celebrate their home borough and all the talent that they see on a daily basis. The result was an eclectic, fun and completely independent Festival, “funded entirely by the community” – as Steve proclaimed in his final thank you’s!

A festival that should’ve existed given the reputation of Hackney and its artist residents didn’t. This year, 2010, marked the first of what is now the annual HFF. It was an immense pleasure – in the diversity of the content showed, the people it drew in and the clearly independently run air about it. Made up of three events, it was a two-day festival that covered a scope of film and video related work. The only criterion for those wishing to submit films was that it was produced strictly by Hackney-based artists and filmmakers. This inceptive year was an extensive celebration of the visual talent and communal thematic interests coming out of the borough.

The first screening took place at the majestic Rio Cinema on Kingsland Road. The “red carpet” event of the Festival opened the two days drawing in “film-heads” from all over London. There screened nine diversely formatted short films: narrative film, conceptual animations, explorative documentaries, music-lead experimentals, factual, surreal, and thought provoking.

The Festival opened with a 21minute narrative by Tony Grissoni. A screen-writer who has worked on a number of widely received features including “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Here at the HFF, his film entitled “Kingsland” profiled a young Kurdish man trying to make it in the Turkish community’s underground work force of Dalston Kingsland. Each of the films that followed was of impressive technical, aesthetic and content caliber. But the impressive diversity of cultures portrayed through the films was very warming and showed a different prospective to what is popularly seen as arty, trendy Hackney, and that is its historical and contemporary ethnic wealth.

After the screening, the HFF moved down Stoke Newington to The Others to present a different dynamic of what film and video art offers. Moving away from the narrative, a line up of Hackney audio-visual artists performed their music to their own accompanying visuals. Between acts, the screens projected historical footage of Hackney furnished by the Borough of Hackney Council Archives. These films silently portrayed grand national and local historical events throughout Hackney such as Coronation festivities, a Victory Day parade and a visit from the Queen also circa 1950.

The final event took everyone to another charged up screening with people at the back on their tippy-toes squirming to see above the heads behind the seated audience. The modest room was packed with people trickling up the stares. Again, an eclectic choice of films ranging from music-based animation, dramatic cartoons, filmed mind trips, a comedy about the Grim Reaper in love, and so many others.

The team that spearheaded the event had a great art-and-community based synergetic aim in mind that played out beautifully. The planning, designing, curating and outreach were impressively executed for something that was purely and completely by the people who live in work in Hackney. The neighborly support was overwhelming, and even at points, surprising. It was the common murmur among the attending crowd that next year’s Hackney Film Festival should definitely pick up on this and grow.

written by sheymab

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