RADIANT CIRCUS started our yearlong #32BoroughsOfFilm adventure with a first visit to Richmond Film Society at The Exchange to see Hirokazu Kore-eda’s SHOPLIFTERS (24 SEP 2019). Here’s what we found.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
It’s always fascinating to find out what makes a local cinema club thrive. Despite there being several commercial and subsidised cinema venues within a 5 mile radius, Richmond Film Society experienced a significant boost to its fortunes when The Exchange opened in Twickenham. Moving from their cramped former home, their annual membership is now fixed – and sold out – at an admirable 250. With a regular attendance at events of between 60 and 80% of members, the society keeps a number of seats back for walk ups and other passing trade. Previous membership sales have been closed by Christmas. This, their 57th year, sold out by August. Which puts them in rude health.
Clearly the move to The Exchange, a train hop away from where they once were, didn’t dampen enthusiasm. As the two volunteers – both called Peter – who acted as our hosts for the evening explained, it was all carefully considered by the committee who researched the postcodes of existing members to see who might risk missing out.
So, why the success? From our perspective, the Society’s mix of second run, intelligent world cinema on a big screen at an affordable price is hard to beat. But the sense here is also about the value of being part of something. This is an event made by volunteers for their community, which makes the experience considerably more valuable – more engaging – than sitting in the anonymous confines of a commercial screen.
The Society gives great event; programme notes on arrival, a simple intro, a great film, and voting slips on the way out (they do mean business, projecting the results from last week’s film in the intro…). It’s the opposite of Luxe cinema seating, table service, 4D technology and escalating ticket prices. The emphasis is almost entirely on the community ritual of gathering together in the dark to encounter flickering lights on the wall. And it’s that powerful spirit we hope to see across London as we travel to more boroughs. We will surely meet very different communities facing very different challenges, but we expect the importance of the ritual to remain the same.
We’ve started #32BoroughsOfFilm with a film society with an amazing history and a certain future. But no organisation is bulletproof, and despite the digital age removing the need for specialist projection skills, any change of policy or management at the venue, or slow drain away of the no/low cost skills bank that makes continued operation possible, will have a serious impact. Community cinema, even in its most robust form, has an inherent fragility that needs constant renewal.
We had a wonderful evening and plan to keep on returning to Richmond Film Society. If you’re local – and aren’t already a member – grab yourself a £5 ticket (£3 for full-time students) and we’ll see you there again soon.
A huge thank you to the organisers of Richmond Film Society for their hospitality and a ticket to see their show.
SHOPLIFTERS aka Manbiki Kazoku
d. Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018 (Japan, 121 mins)
SHOPLIFTERS plays like a fable of family life, but one that gently tears apart to reveal serious concerns about family, poverty and the role of the state in keeping us safe (or otherwise).
A cluttered, chaotic apartment plays home to an extended family of sorts, a multi-generational clan hiding away from the world by doing their best for each other. Or are they?
Brilliantly controlled ensemble performances and a clever contrast of the family’s cramped space with outside worlds expose the state of a nation. The constant slurping of noodles, a simple symphony of their togetherness.
We realise we won’t always know our next stop in these #32BoroughsOfFilm posts, but this time we do. By some error, RADIANT CIRCUS has been invited back to judge the second Last Frame Film Club Smartphone Film Festival (28 SEP 18:30) – part of the Leytonstone Loves Film Weekend (27 to 29 SEP). See you there!
RICHMOND FILM SOCIETY
Members go free. Tickets for non-members are £5 (£3 full-time students) and can be purchased in advance from The Exchange’s Box Office 020 8240 2399, online or on the night (cash only!).
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