GFT Blog: Il Cinema Ritrovato

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My favourite thing about working at Glasgow Film is the constant encouragement to push yourself, to keep learning and to always ask questions. My second favourite thing about working at Glasgow Film is when we get pizza delivered to the office. So when an opportunity came up to attend a Europa Cinemas Audience Development and Innovation Lab in Italy – I was IN!

2017 marks the 25th birthday of the Europa Cinemas network, representing over 1,000 cinemas across Europe – including your favourite (us). The Europa Cinemas’ Audience Development & Innovation Lab (Building Inclusion & Reaching Out to New Audiences) this year took place over 4 days at Il Cinema Ritrovato, in Bologna, with 36 participants from all over Europe: Belgium, Greece, The Netherlands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Poland, Estonia, Romania, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Lithuania, Italy, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, France, United Kingdom and… erm, United States. Stephanie from The Belcourt in Nashville was an honorary European for the week.

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Ciao! Photo: Alexis D'Huyteza

It was important for me to attend this Lab as independent cinemas rely on their ability to connect with audiences, and in these challenging times it is essential for us to think creatively about our offer, audience experience and engagement. And also I really like Bolognese. I was reliably told by GSFF's fountain of wisdom Matt Lloyd that it is actually very healthy to consume ridiculous amounts of Gelato when you're in Italy. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

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The Lab focused on getting to know our existing audiences and how to reach out with relevant content. Over the course of the 5 days, we thought about and discussed what barriers we face with audiences, with particular relation to the younger generation (top tip: if you’re reading this and you’re aged between 15 and 19, become a GYFF programmer) and excluded communities.  Madeleine Probst (Vice President of Europa Cinemas and Watershed Cinema Programme Producer) quoted Verna Meyers on our first day: ‘diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.’

A huge part of events like this is the peer-to-peer discussion, it’s fascinating to find out what works for other independent cinemas across Europe. Most attendees were asked to prepare a short presentation on an initiative from their cinema. I was first up and presented on Visible Cinema, our D/deaf and Hard of Hearing programme. Here's a fun picture of me wishing the ground would swallow me up whole: 

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…it was actually fine. Turns out, people who work in cinema exhibition are SO NICE.

I definitely took something from every presentation I watched. For me, specific Case Studies that stood out as particularly inspiring were The Courtyard’s dementia friendly screenings, Belcourt Theatre’s I See Me programme, Watershed’s RIFE programme and Budapest Film’s Puskin Kucko. The Lab also featured a number of guest speakers, including an excellent talk from Park Circus’ Nick Varley on 'discoverability' and an extra special discussion with Bill Morrison, featuring a snippet of Dawson City: Frozen Time – which I highly recommend you seek out, a fascinating documentary on forgotten film reels found under an ice rink!!

As Marketing & Press Coordinator the session that resonated with me the most was the Social Media Crash Course, hosted by the infinitely inspiring Marco Odasso. Turned out you could ask him the most obscure social media related problem you can think of and he’ll find you a suitable solution. He was also kind enough to share USB drives with us, that contain over 7 years of research – so that’s my next few weekends planned (I’m genuinely excited about this).

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Piazza Maggiore. Photography: Lorenzo Burlando, Il Cinema Ritrovato

As the Lab was taking place at Il Cinema Ritrovato, each participant was given accreditation for the festival. I didn't see as much as I would have liked to as a result of time constraints, so next time I'd plan to go for a little longer. This was the 31st edition of the festival and my first visit. A cinephile’s delight, Il Cinema Ritrovato celebrates the origin of cinema and presents a programme packed with restored and rediscovered cinema: “Il Cinema Ritrovato is a grand museum of film, open for just nine days a year.”

On Saturday evening (post-pizza) we headed down to Piazza Maggiore, home of the most beautiful cinema screen I’ve ever seen. Sitting outside on a balmy Italian summer evening, watching a restored version of Jean Vigo’s stunning L’Atlante, recorded introduction by some director nobody knew (see below), with live piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne was a pinch-yourself-magical moment.

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Every night during the festival, the Piazza hosts a free public screening. Packed with locals, festival delegates and tourists alike, these screenings are the epitome of what a shared cinema-going experience should be. For example, (spoiler alert) a fantastic cheer reverberated around the crowd when Emma got her come-uppance in Johnny Guitar...

A particular highlight of the festival was a screening of Sergei Eisenstein's iconic Battleship Potemkin in the Piazza, accompanied by Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna performing Edmund Meisel’s original score – AND A SHOOTING STAR. Yes, really! At first I thought it was a firework but was quickly corrected. I had just witnessed a genuine shooting star streaking across the sky above a huge outdoor cinema screen and during a live orchestral score. As I said, pinch-yourself-magical.

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Johnny Guitar. Photography: Lorenzo Burlando, Il Cinema Ritrovato

The festival trailer (which I’ve been unable to find online, but if you follow us on Instagram *hint hint* you may have seen it in some of our stories) featured clips of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein, to the soundtrack of Patti Smith's ‘Because the Night’ and has a really special place in my heart. I’m delighted I got to spend the week learning from some truly inspiring people, enjoying some spectacular cinema experiences (and delicious food), and although I didn't get a suntan, I return to GFT with my head bursting full of ideas. 

Margaret Smith
Marketing & Press Co-ordinator

Read more about Il Cinema Ritrovato.
Read more about Europa Cinemas Innovation Labs.

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