Secret Cinema 2011

Past experience tells me that a secret can breed lies; lies cause trouble, which in turn brings further experience and wisdom; an interesting cycle. So what was I doing on Sunday evening? Something very secret. Uh oh; spells trouble.

Before I proceed, only continue reading if; a) dressing up (not fancy dress) excites rather than exasperates; b) you don’t wince on interacting with strangers and, c) you can keep a secret.

Carte d’identité in one hand, a fragrant 1950’s-clad European lady in the other, I walked, with caution, down the aptly eerie Leake Street. Everything around caused suspicion within me; the French-speaking children playing football; the groups of faceless women elegantly covered head to toe in sheer white; the army officers showing you no recognition, not to mention the barbed wire and blockades ahead.

In a matter of footsteps, suspicion had reincarnated itself as unnerved fear and harassment. Shuffled along like refugees we made our way through the border but only courtesy of a conversation in broken French. Not everyone shared the same fate.

The intensity was by no means contrived; I was gripped, dodging animosity from all angles. Leake Street’s dimly lit underground passages played home to a broken society of dramatic proportions. Crowds of similarly dressed people to us gathered and danced in clandestine establishments such as The Milk Bar while down other streets, road sweeps cowered in dark corners. Several stalls sold food of French/North African origin, varying from chocolate filled crepés to spiced lamb with humus in a flatbread.

But appetites were lost to the sharp sounds of torture chambers and harrowing cries of unjust pain. Every bit of detail – the games of chess, the authentic French film posters, the road signs, the choice of liquor, the prison lights – all served to manipulate us further into the depths of whatever film we were in. And it was working.

Outside the Air France office and midway through the coarse words of La Marseillaise, commotion struck; a blast of some kind. Screams followed the entailing chaos as wounded women and children were carried through the hordes of anxious onlookers. It felt intensely real.

Within minutes, everyone had been evacuated into the nearby cinema or failing that, the local mosque and seemingly safe, the film was announced to a rapturous applause that was thoroughly deserved.

Now I’m no politician but I’ll say this; where I learnt from past experiences, the following quartet struggled to. Messrs Cameron, Sarkozy, Gaddafi and Mubarak could do a lot worse than taking the time to watch Gillo Pontecorvo’s uncompromised and prejudice-free 1966 thriller, The Battle of Algiers. I’d also recommend Love Da Pop’s white chocolate popcorn to them too.

Be it political motivation, the thrill of being part of a secret or a lifelong desire to frolic as a film star without being judged and/or mocked, visit Secret Cinema’s website. Just don’t tell anyone I told you.

Image by adactio courtesy of Flickr

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