Winner of Best Documentary, Mistaken For Strangers
Winner of Best Documentary, Mistaken For Strangers

The East End Film Festival has been running for thirteen years, forging itself a reputation as one of the country’s foremost champions of fresh indie talent. With an alternative and cosmopolitan spirit coursing through its veins, this year’s fortnight-long event was as teeming as ever with memorable works from both home and abroad. Three films in particular left a lasting impression.

You and the Night (Les Rencontres d’après minuit)
Yann Gonzalez’s erotic debut feature is like The Breakfast Club meets Let the Right One In meets Drive, only it’s not quite as good as this combination might sound. It’s short on direction and substance, but a stuffing of sensual nourishment and a mesh of bold aesthetic ideas suggest a bright future for the French director.

Fabienne Babe and Eric Cantona deliver standout performances as participants in an orgy of lost souls in search of sexual therapy. Cast in a neon-lit semi-future, this original avant-garde piece explores dreams, love, loss and Cantona’s outlandishly large member.

Pleasing on the eye – and the ears even more so – You and the Night is very nearly a very clever re-imagining of traditional narrative techniques. Gonzalez is certainly one to watch.

The Distance (La distancia)
The Distance is strange and beautiful. It’s a Borgesian heist movie in which a trio of depraved dwarves, with telepathic and telekinetic powers, attempt to steal an abstract concept from an abandoned industrial power plant. Set in a surrealist Siberian landscape, the film was shot in Catalonia and captures a majestic kind of dereliction. The story itself isn’t completely satisfying, but through a fun combination of original sound and image – coupled with a hefty dose of dark humour – Sergio Caballero’s film leaves a distinct, Lynch-like mark.

Mistaken for Strangers
Named the festival’s Best Documentary, Mistaken for Strangers takes the rock-doc format to new and impressive territory. Tom Berninger, brother of The National frontman Matt Berninger, has lived in the shadow of stardom for too long; it’s his turn to shine, and shine he does. Invited to join The National on tour as a roadie, the amateur director takes a meta-introspective look at the distance between him and his iconic elder brother. Seemingly incompetent and completely disorganised, Tom roughly shuns any notion that he might be concerned with band dynamics or the music, subverting the genre to great effect.

What follows is hilarious and moving. It’s a self-reflexive jaunt into the depths of the sibling psyche, reaching a bizarre and dramatic climax in which the focus is almost entirely on the making of the film. Mistaken for Strangers is uplifting and unforgettable, with a magical final scene and a hearty nod to Werner Herzog, who makes a brief appearance.

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