Picture of The food break during the screening of The Mahabharata

Memorable moments at Forest Row community cinema

Which aspects of our programme do you most value? I recently asked our audience to name some of their most memorable moments at the films in Forest Row, and was pleasantly surprised at the range of things the responses covered.

Unsurprisingly, there were several films that people singled out for special mention. Rosita Gaston particularly loved “the film Departures. Such an exquisite film.” Indeed, this was a particularly high-scoring film (98.1). It has done very well in community cinemas around the country, and is one of the most-booked titles from BFFS, but it was particularly popular with the Forest Row audience.

Comedy is something that we are trying to do more of, though we’re always conscious that it can be difficult to predict what will work. Not everyone has the same sense of humour, after all. One film has been often mentioned as a big success; Annette Gurr remembered:

the audible sound of people enjoying The Fairy – yes, everyone was laughing.  A truly memorable moment.

For many of us, the most special event of the year was that described by Jancis Browning:

the screening of The Mahabharata. It was such a remarkable and unusual film and having the village supper in the middle was absolutely brilliant. It would be lovely to repeat the experience of a film and supper again some time.

This has made us think that there could be an appetite for occasional longer film events. Bringing people together and sharing food as well as the film has proved to be very potent. The Mahabharata was a special event added to the programme by Mike Grenville as part of the Transition Forest Row strand of films; I think it was because it was so special that it generated some of the most positive comments about anything we’ve ever done. You can read more feedback on the film page.

The food dimension is an important part of what we do too. It helps oil the social interactions before the films start, and helps to differentiate what we do in our community cinema, as Rosita Gaston noted:

I also like the nice cakes people make and the informal atmosphere. So much nicer than a slick, impersonal mainstream cinema!

One big surprise for me was Celia Dixie’s comments that her memorable moment was the screening of:

the wonderful short, Eurydice: She so beloved

This was a film made by the Quay Brothers, and commissioned by Opera North for the anniversary of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, and which we included in the programme at short notice after quickly arranging it with the BFI. It is sumptuosly beautiful and enigmatic, and just goes to show that even the small touches added to the programme can have a big impact.

Silent cinema has been a significant part of our programming for some years now, and it is wonderful that our audience loves it too. Hrvojka Kostelic-Swift described how our screening of Seven Chances was the occasion for:

taking my 7 year old to cinema for the 1st time. It was 2 years ago, (during Bicycle Day/FR festival), you were showing Buster Keaton and 3 generations of our family just laughed and laughed…loved it!

It was lovely that my Croatian, non-english speaking mum was with us and there was no need to translate anything! I don’t make it to the village hall cinema as often as I would like to but it’s such a great thing we’ve got in our village!

Similarly, Suzanne Hillen was keen to recall:

Our 1890s Village Hall filled with children, who are taking a break from the yearly Forest Row cycling day in the autumn. The children (some with parents) sit down with a sandwich/drink from the counter and are full of expectation.

Soon the light goes off. Brad starts the film; the introduction of names flashes on the screen, but there is no sound to accompany what we’re viewing on screen. We are in for a classic. Most children have never experienced a silent film. They are confused and giggle.

Professionals Terry (piano) and Anna (violin) start their improvisation linked to the many movements of walking, gliding, dancing and falling in the film. The girl in front of me cannot sit still from excitement, she hears the music seamless with the pictures on the screen and is spellbound. She starts laughing, soon the whole hall is roaring with laughter, which does not stop till the film is finished. No computer game, i-phone, or dvd can top this communal, timeless experience. They want more and we (adults) want more!

Indeed, Suzanne also notes how the community cinema:

has brought us a variety of weekly films that our community would otherwise not easily see. The films are shown on our doorstep and most of us walk or cycle to the hall, where a home baked cake and fresh coffee/tea or a glass of wine is served with a smile. For my husband and me, Friday night is Film Society night!

It is extremely satisfying to know when we do things right, and that it is possible to create events in our village that can touch so many people with joy, wonder and delight. For me too, one moment that particularly sticks in my mind is:

the screening of Caramel in October 2008; it was our first film with the new equipment, and I was completely elated that it all worked and that so many people turned up

I am so glad that you do turn up. We really do appreciate the feedback, help and support you give us, not least since it enables us to do more and better things in the future.

What else have you loved that we have done?