RADIANT CIRCUS launched our new popup cinema LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY (22 OCT to 01 NOV) at The Bridewell Theatre last week. We’re screening daily programmes of bitesize short films to help liberate some lunch hours. Here’s what happened!
By RADIANT CIRCUS
Showing films at lunchtime turns out to be an absolute treat. Mostly you’re meeting people who are glad to be out of the office and grateful that someone has taken the initiative to kickstart something new. Working in the same place with the same people has many rewards, but changes to routine and a fresh perspective aren’t usually part of the parcel. Which is why we’re popping up with something new. Each day there’s a different programme and each day so far there’s been a different response.
Tuesday started with a series of shorts called BETTER UNITED, an exploration of the divisions that are currently affecting the state of our nation. Brandon Orgill’s WE NEED A RESOLUTION (2019) threw down the gauntlet with its 1980s set study of racism and knife crime. Kai Fiáin’s THE BROTHER (2018) showed us how surreal helping each other out can be, whilst Greg Latham’s IN THE CROWD (2018) explored how queer football fans can navigate dual identities to take collective action against homophobia.
Possibly the audience’s biggest response came for CRICKLAND (2017), Rebecca Richard’s doc about the oldest pub in Bournemouth and the people that drink there. We first saw it at Cheap Cuts Doc Fest and it’s notable for excellent camerawork, editing and subtle observation. The universal microcosm of the public house is shared with warm affection, from the raucous selling of meat raffle tickets to the quietly noted tremor in one man’s hand as (another) pint is raised to his lips.
Day two – ABOUT US – was all about stories, who gets to tell them, what they reveal about us and how our stories get out there. Amrou Al-Kadhi’s CLASH (2017) challenged the all-white/straight histories of British TV costume drama whilst Vashti Harrison’s FIELD NOTES (2014) presented an experimental guide to the ghost spirits of Trinidad and Tobago. Linda Reiss’ understated drama READY TO GO (2017) revelled in the power of stories to reveal our inner truths. As with all our films, it looked and sounded great on the popup projection kit we’ve hired from our friends at Cinema For All.
Probably the biggest response in this programme was reserved for Nadine Boller’s THE BLOCK (2016). It’s an observational documentary from the Steppes of Kyrgyzstan, where standing on the foundation concrete of a former Soviet era building is the only way locals can get a mobile phone signal. Overheard conversations, and the way the tables are turned on the filmmakers, ended the day with a generous dose of the humour of everyday life.
Animation day – FRAME BY FRAME – stretched the boundaries of subject matter most audiences expect from the medium and was possibly our most challenging programme. Bookended by kick-ass older women – things started with Maike Mahira Koller’s submarine adventure, SWIM – the programme took us from Lynn Kim’s autobiographical exploration of the intersection of hyenas and queerness DID YOU KNOW? (2018) (it’s all to do with intersex genitalia, omnivorous dietary habits and hereditary legitimacy), to the beautiful riot of colour that is Rikke Alma Krogshave Planeta’s BACCHUS (2018). Dann Parry’s stop-motion BIRDS OF A FEATHER (2017) and Joan Ashworth’s timelapse/stop-motion mashup, THE MUSHROOM THIEF (2010), moved us into another, sometimes darker, dimension.
Kate Raney and Jeremy Bessoff’s LINGUA ABSENTIA (2016) ruffled a few feathers. Its a very moving, sometimes harrowing depiction of a mother’s challenges in caring for a daughter diagnosed with schizophrenia. A further diagnosis of cancer results in parts of Abby’s tongue and some teeth being removed, triggering further pain and paranoia. It is undoubtedly uncomfortable to witness, yet the film’s cut and torn paper animation beautifully renders the love, care and trauma inherent in these everyday lives.
Eden Chan’s mini action movie – WHAT A PEACEFUL DAY (2016) – sees an old woman’s walk in the Taiwanese woods interrupted first by an adorable deer and then by a ruthless huntsman. Played very loud, it catapulted the audience back into the vibrant animated worlds we might be more familiar with, whilst still ringing important changes by having an older woman dispense justice (with a soup ladle…).
Our first Friday – and the end of our first week – was dedicated to the courage and character to be yourself in an era of increasing conformity (a programme called UNCONVENTIONAL U). This had our smallest audience of the week – maybe everyone was rushing to get their “to dos” done before the weekend? – but it was a pleasure to show some of our more leisurely shorts. Penny Antorkas’ TILL DEATH DO US PART (2016) examines horror fan Grant’s genre obsession, casting him in the films that have taken over his life. DEAR PETER (2016) by Scott Willis documented the hunt for an unknown man arising from the donation of a large collection of postcards to a charity shop and Tammy Riley Smith’s spirited drama LADY M (2018) confirmed that hell hath no fury… like an older woman scorned.
The first, launch week of LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY was an exercise in locking down the logistics and throwing the doors open to our first audiences. Everything worked and it’s been a real joy. Some folk have come back each day whilst others have simply plucked a programme at random and taken a punt. With some audience members committing to promote the event via their office intranets, a (quiet) lunchtime revolution has begun.
Less quietly, promoting LUNCHTIME FILM involves some good old-fashioned street-corner flyering (our founder isn’t known as the RADIANT CIRCUS ‘Barker-in-Chief’ for nothing…). At all times of the working day, the crowd’s response has been surprisingly friendly (even in the recent rain). What’s becoming familiar is a certain kind of response: a knowing shrug as someone locked too tightly into their own schedule walks on by. This shrug is often accompanied by a chuckle of recognition and a resigned “If only…”.
We don’t know how lunches came to this, but we’re determined to liberate as many more lunch hours as we can. It’s time for more workers in the City Of London to rise up (if only for an hour!) and reclaim their lunch break. After all, this “tiny slice of freedom” (Evening Standard) is only served once every day…
LUNCHTIME FILM SOCIETY continues at the Bridewell Theatre (EC4Y between Fleet St & New Bridge St) until 01 NOV.
[TUE 29 OCT] SMART PHONE: These shorts were all made on smartphones, showcasing the potential of the camera in your pocket to create a mini masterpiece (& we don’t mean your cat “playing” the piano…).
[WED 30 OCT] LONDON STORIES: Life in London is a collage of constant choice & change. These shorts look at how the city is evolving & how the choices we make affect our lives & (possible) futures.
[THU 31 OCT] HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Join us this Halloween for a lunchtime lineup of short films with extra bite. These twisted tales will send shivers down your spine…
[FRI 01 NOV] THAT FRIDAY FEELING: Start your weekend early – & celebrate the end of our first pop-up! – with a flip-out fantastic programme of joyous shorts that will lift your spirits & send you back out with a smile.
Tickets are available now at sbf.org.uk/whats-on or they can be booked over the phone (020 7353 3331 MON – FRI) and in person at the Bridewell Theatre box office.
Tickets cost £8 in advance or £10 on the door. Every ticket comes with some free popcorn and a limited edition movie zine (while stocks last!).
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