Usually staged in hostels or shelters, these film clubs invite those on the margins of society to enjoy the best in contemporary cinema on a weekly basis. In the spirit of inclusion and participation, film club members can submit requests or choose particular seasons based on specific genres and themes. Adding an active component, separate workshops encourage the creation of films under the guidance of professional filmmakers. Here, amateur participants not only acquire technical expertise in areas like editing or camera operation, but also valuable soft skills like teamwork, problem solving, and communication.

Open Cinema commenced operations in 2005, when filmmaker Christoph Warrack found himself running a soup kitchen in Central London and guests approached him for entertainment options. The seasoned pro – in the production business since 1998 – couldn’t help but notice an obvious coincidence and dichotomy: London’s West End is both hub to the UK’s film industry and the city’s many homeless. Trying to bridge this glaring gap, Warrack used his media contacts to bring the movie world to his soup kitchen. An immediate success, these screenings proved extremely popular, soon spreading to other venues and shelters.

By now, Open Cinema comprises 16 clubs and venues across the UK, with Open Cinema Belfast and Open Cinema Sheffield about to launch. And while more than 3.000 disadvantaged attendees have enjoyed these screenings to date, the turnout also included six Academy Award winners and nominees as well as two Cannes Palme d’Or winners as guest speakers, amongst them Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), Mike Hodges (Flash Gordon), and Ken Loach (The Wind That Shakes the Barley).

As part of a recent series of pilot projects, conducted in collaboration with the Open University, the initiative also aims to introduce the homeless to educational content, lecturers, and opportunities for subsidized learning, while further projects with a focus on integrated learning and crowd-scheduled cultural themes are currently in the pipeline. According to urban artist Banksy, “Film is incredibly democratic and accessible; it’s probably the best option if you actually want to change the world, not just re-decorate it.“ Well, we could not have said it better!

Text: Romy Uebel
Header Image: .marqs / photocase
All other images: Open Cinema