SCREEN DIARY: NEW HEIGHTS, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

SCREEN DIARY: Leytonstone Loves Film

For the next in the yearlong adventure around London’s community screens we’re tagging #32BoroughsOfFilm, RADIANT CIRCUS headed to Waltham Forest for Leytonstone Loves Film, a weekend celebration of cinema (27 to 29 SEP). Here’s our writeup.


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Leytonstone Loves Film was a weekend-long festival designed to celebrate film culture and Leytonstone’s unique cinema history. It was a wonderfully epic collab between local residents and organisations, the Barbican and Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture 2019.

RADIANT CIRCUS could only make one event, but wandering from the station to The Birds (our venue), you got a sense of the scale. Taking place from Friday 27 SEP to Sunday 29 SEP there was an array of indoor and outdoor screenings alongside workshops, activities and installations. Music, markets and food stalls adding to the festival atmosphere. And who doesn’t love a road closure to show an event means business…?

The film programme itself ranged from independent to art house to world cinema, meaning there was something in the lineup for everyone. Film events we sadly missed included: a rare, restored version of the 1957 classic of Bollywood cinema, PYAASA, by Guru Dutt; Buster Keaton’s silent gem THE GENERAL with live score and light show by Haiku Salut; and, a documentary about the history of grime music in Waltham Forest, made by a group of young producers as part of the Waltham Forest Grime project.

Our small RADIANT CIRCUS bit of service for Leytonstone Loves Film was to act as judges and co-sponsors for the second Last Frame Club Smartphone Film Festival. Building on last year’s success (read our interview with festival organisers Vera and Natalia HERE and coverage of the 2018 winners HERE), the buzz was even bigger this time around, drawing together a strong programme of international short films shot on, and with many actually featuring, smartphones.

We’d not been to The Birds as a cinema venue before, but with some production magic from team Barbican, a big, open attic-like space and always popular deckchairs, everything looked the business. Even the spillover sounds from the bar downstairs – a perennial problem for pub/bar screenings – managed to boost the DIY spirit of the event (how we’d have felt watching something more contemplative, only a return visit will tell – their HITCHCOCKOBER season starts 03 OCT).

The Smartphone Film Festival itself was made up of two parts. The first showcased films from the London Documentary Network 36hr smartphone filmmaking challenge. The second projected international films in official competition which we’ll cover in another post when the winners are announced later this week (don’t forget to vote in the audience poll by hopping onto Last Frame Club’s social media @lastframeclub).

SCREEN DIARY: PASS THE BATON, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).
SCREEN DIARY: PASS THE BATON, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

As to the five London Documentary Network challenge films, they were crammed full of strong visuals and appealing subjects, access to whom must have been one of the biggest adrenaline rushes of getting a film made in the time available (that’s 36hrs from brief to submission over one busy weekend).

The theme for the challenge was ‘thrill’ and inevitably our favourites were those that played most creatively with the idea. Films included SPEAK about a workshop for people overcoming their fear of public speaking, a punning title about a family of bat lovers in Tower Hamlets – PASS THE BATON – which was awarded Runner Up and the eventual Winner, NEW HEIGHTS, about one subject’s determination to demonstrate his vertigo with the aid of a fairground ride and a documentary film crew. The full lineup of films (and their crews) is listed below and you can watch all of the titles on the London Documentary Network YouTube channel.

If we had to pick just one, it would be PASS THE BATON for the sheer joy of watching and hearing its subjects – including the children of a Tower Hamlets nature warden – wander through a city park at night, bat-tracing sonar gear held aloft. It was like some kind of abstract SPRING WATCH Kiddie Rave. And we loved its spontaneous sense of awe.

You’ll have to wait a little longer for our thoughts on films in the main competition when we announce the winners. What was great overall about the festival was how well all of the films landed with a packed-out crowd. For a weekend all about pushing the boundaries of DIY screen culture, the Smartphone Film Festival offered a perfect marriage of form and forum, the queues for spare seats testament to fascination in the idea.

What we also enjoyed was the number of films in competition that were both made on phones and had phones – or mobile screen culture more generally (gifs, memes, social media) – embedded in their narratives. Of course modern smartphones can be used as affordable 4K cameras in more traditional setups, but the emergence of a new form or genre made the night more compelling as phones become ever more central to how we (or at least, those of us with ready access to the technology…) document, communicate and archive our lives. More than that, smartphones have actually become a vehicle for directing our choices and amplifying their positive or negative consequences, as their increasingly powerful artificial intelligence fully integrates into our social systems like some kind of machine Jiminy Cricket.

Well done to Last Frame Club, London Documentary Network and all of the partners behind Leytonstone Loves Film. We’ll be showing some of the In Competition films at our LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY popup cinema at the Bridewell Theatre in October (22 OCT to 01 NOV). We hope to see you there.

And that’s the meat of it…


SCREEN DIARY: KARAOKE, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).
SCREEN DIARY: KARAOKE, part of Smartphone Film Festival at Leytonstone Loves Film (28 SEP).

SPEAK (Crew: Danny Concha, Toru Kubota, Sancak Tevfic, Geoff W), GOAL (Crew: Susy Castro Silupú, Anais Sánchez Gómez, Ananí Yolanda Reyna Zavaleta, Karoline Pelikan), KARAOKE (Eleanor Lindsay-Fynn, Joe Lee), PASSING THE BATON (Crew: Harry Roth, Oliver Halls, Alex Wilding), and NEW HEIGHTS (Crew: Xin Fan, Hyder Habib, Alex Hyndman, Bethan Stacey).

[> All links to YouTube]


Follow us @RadiantCircus #32BoroughsOfFilm to find out about our next London adventure….


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LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY - Radiant Circus at the Bridewell Theatre - 22 Oct to 01 Nov 2019.

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