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East Meets East

Date posted: 26.04.2011

Alongside bank holidays and anticipated Royal events, April is also bringing the capital's film lovers many good reasons to visit the big screen and celebrate film.

The East End Film Festival and the London Palestine Film Festival, both funded by Film London through the Cultural Film Exhibition Fund, are bringing a mix of viewing experiences to audiences across London.

The offer from these established and popular film festivals includes checking out works in long and short form from around the world, discovering emerging talent from the capital's East End and getting an exclusive glimpse into life in the Middle East through recent productions from the region.

Beyond Its Roots

Kicking off on Wednesday 27 April and now in its tenth year, the East End Film Festival (EEFF) 2011 will see six days of UK premieres, screenings of seminal works, a selection of shorts, photographic exhibitions and events. Supported by Tower Hamlets Council, the festival has spent the last decade nurturing its roots as a platform for local emerging talent whilst carving its place as an internationally-minded forum for film, music and cultural events.

"We take the moving image as our starting point and then throw all the other creative mediums into the mix - this year we've got everything from outdoor silent cinema with a live soundtrack to video and photographic exhibitions, poetry performance, heritage film trails and even a Cycle Symphony (involving a huge squadron of cyclists and a live orchestra taking a virtual tour around the East End)", explains the festival's artistic director, Alison Poltock.

With a distinctive taste for shorts and a healthy number of programmes to prove it, EEFF is presenting over 80 short films this year. EEFF's New UK Talent strand includes Film London funded Albatross and Elsewhere. Audiences can also catch Film London backed documentaries Mrs Birks' Sunday Roast and Buriganga as part of the Land of Kings and New UK Talent Documentary strands respectively.

Other highlights in the shorts programme include the 2011 BAFTA winning animation The Eagleman Stag and Release the Flying Monkeys, directed by Film London-supported film-maker Alex Taylor.

Marking the Royal wedding and paying homage to the festival's home on 29 April, Heritage Trail will showcase archive film material sourced from archives in the East End. Documenting the street party tradition with footage from the First World War right up to the Golden Jubilee, the screening will include rarely seen material recently recovered and digitised through the London Screen Heritage Programme.

Also exploring the cultural significance of street parties, Melanie Manchot's art film Celebration (Cyprus Street), supported by Film London through the Digital Film Archive Fund, will be screened as part of a wider event on 28 April. The evening will also feature a panel discussion examining the phenomenon of street parties and its role in galvanising communities.

Other highlights in the programme include a look to non-mainstream work from Romania, with screenings, Q&As, workshops and masterclasses. The festival will also offer a rare chance to see the complete version of Ken Russell's highly controversial cult film The Devils, a digitally re-mastered version of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and premieres including Guillermo del Toro-produced horror flick Julia's Eyes.

Looking Further East

Starting on 29 April, this year's London Palestine Film Festival (LPFF) boasts over a dozen UK premieres, guest speakers and the chance to see rare archive masterpieces and world-class photography.

The 2011 LPFF is presenting a fortnight of bold documentary, fiction, and experimental cinema by artists from around the world, with works exploring issues affecting Palestine and the Middle East, including political unrest, displacement and activism.

With a 12-year history behind it and run by the non-profit organisation Palestine Film Foundation, LPFF is broadening its horizons by increasing and improving the programme and evaluating its impact on audiences. Film screenings will be enriched by a series of talks, panel discussions and Q&As, with speakers including Emmy-award winning director Mike Dibb (The Miles Davis Story) and veteran Michel Khleifi, winner of the International Critics Prize in Cannes with Wedding in Galilee and who will be premiering his latest work, Zindeeq, at LPFF.

A key goal of the festival has been to challenge preconceptions about the region and the complex issues facing it. As Nick Denes, co-director of the LPFF, explains: "In programming, we're obviously aware of a constant stream of televisual imagery, often violent and saddening, emanating from Palestine/Israel throughout the year. I suppose one of the more consistent motivations governing our programming over time has therefore been a desire to surprise. We hope to enlist diverse and interesting films in order to shake about and re-present questions that we might otherwise too easily assume already answered. So I do hope that a festival-goer who scans this year's programme and falls on an apparent oddity will take a chance with us, and allow themselves to be surprised with us."

Other highlights in the programme include the UK premiere of Rachel, a powerful documentary about the death of US activist Rachel Corrie in 2003, and a special screening of 1967's Far from Vietnam, a seminal piece of political film-making by a group of directors including Jean Luc Godard and Alain Resnais.

The festival's film offer will be complemented with an exhibition of the work of photographer JC Tordai documenting Palestine over the past three decades at the Barbican (27 April - 17 May), and dance workshops for the youth at the Palestinian School on 8 May.

The East End Film Festival runs 27 April - 2 May at multiple venues across the capital. Find out more about this year's programme on the festival's website and keep up with latest developments by following EEFF on Twitter - @EastEndFilmFest

The London Palestine Film Festival runs 29 April - 11 May at several venues. Find all details on the festival's website

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