Last night, I had a chat with the Haringey Independent Cinema (HIC). I was with Tottenham-born Tony Wood, the founding volunteer of the group and Marlene Barrett, one of the volunteer organisers. They were partnering with Haringey Justice for Palestinians to screen two very different films, each with a keyhole look at contrasting experiences of occupation. One of the films was essentially about life, freedom, youth and discovery; the other, by The Lab, was about death, war and the economy. I really enjoyed both but the life-affirming one, Epicly Palestine’d was uplifting and inspiring and it got me thinking about radical youth projects breaking the mould and of Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s Skate Girl image. HIC do that, they get you thinking about stuff. Before watching the films, here’s what the two members of the team had to say.
How long has HIC been going?
HIC: 10 years now
What made you start it?
Tony: A few of us have always wanted films on in Haringey. You have the main multiplex cinema that shows the normal stuff but nothing else in Haringey and also I’m from Tottenham and wanted something in Tottenham. There’s never been a cinema in Tottenham. Well, as long as I’ve known there’s never been a cinema in Tottenham but also we wanted to use something that would get people out of their homes to meet their neighbours. Everyone talks about the community but trying to build that community is the thing and we thought we would try to get people out to watch a good film but they also get to meet their neighbours. There’s a pub across the road and we try to go over there for a drink afterwards. Twice a year we put on food here [at Park View School] and we’ll have a short film, get everyone outside, food, people sitting down talking to each other and then we show a film. It’s just a way to get everyone to know each other. There was a lovely story a few years back, two women were sitting in a pub and afterwards came up to us and said we want to really thank you. We’ve both lived in the same street for years and we’ve never met each other and because of these film nights, we got to meet each other. So it’s stories like that really that has it going.
How do you decide on what films to show?
HIC: A small group of us meet every so often to plan the next films. We are always trying to look for films that people may not have seen or challenge them a bit or be a bit different. We try to make sure that at least two of us in the group have seen the film so even if someone recommends something, we’ll tend to watch it first and then we try to choose. Sometimes we try to choose linked to a theme or anniversary, like last month it was the centenary of the Armenian Genocide so sometimes its key dates. Sometimes we join in with things like Black History Month or other themes or groups like Haringey Justice for Palestinians, Our Tottenham, South African Development Education Association…It’s just about trying to promote other groups, trying to link up but then also giving them some publicity.
Do you plan films ahead or do you pick them as you go along?
HIC: It’s a balance because we try to have them planned three of four months ahead and we can relax if we know we have the film and also we’re not panicking and we can get our publicity out in advance but on the other hand sometimes things happen and we’re rushing as we want to respond to it. So you kind of [ask], our schedule is tied up so what do you do? We have occasionally put extra nights on because we want to respond to something like we did the Tottenham Riots, a local group produced a film called Riot from Wrong and we put their film on fairly quickly. A lot of the films come from the people who come along to the film nights. Either people come up and say, I saw this film the other day or they email us or come and chat to us at the pub. Sometimes they’re not quite right but a lot of the time they’re great and none of us has heard of them.
Is there anything you would love to show and haven’t been able to show yet?
Tony: I think over the nine years we’ve shown everything. The first few was us fighting to show our favourite films but after nines years we’ve all each shown a film but there are still films out there and still films being made. I think it gets harder to work out what films to show. Every so often we look for a classic and there’s still lots that we haven’t shown and then there’s the question of if it’s the right thing to show here, maybe people have seen them already and that kind of thing. Then there’s been times when we’ve wanted to show something but it’s been too hard to get hold of.
We would love to show a few hard-hitting Polish films that have a social conscious. I’ve gone to a number of Polish people I know and they know of all the run-of-the-mill Polish films but you know, we want Polish films, Asian films, Turkish films that we would never get to see. I don’t get to see that genre of film but we would love for people to suggest films to us that are good films that are also maybe non-European.
How many volunteers have you got?
HIC: Technically there’s eight of us and then there’s a few more who would come when we do our Christmas celebration with food and drink. Usually, five or six more come and help set up. If you want to get involved, email or come to us on a film night and talk to us. It’s not that exciting or exclusive! The events may be exciting but it’s not that exciting sitting in someone’s living room and trying to work out what films to show.
Tony: My reason for doing this is as much the community side. I don’t go and see a lot of films but I really want to do something around here to get people to know each other so weirdly I’m doing it more for the community side.
Hope for the future of this group?
We tried last year to put on a film festival with different groups in the area like, the Asian Centre in Wood Green, there was a woman who was running films in The Salisbury Pub, the Haringey Women’s Centre and we all got together but it didn’t really work. It worked but in terms of people and response, it didn’t. I would love to see this place used five nights a week for films but… What has worked well is that we know what we can manage to do and we can carry on. Every so often we try to think about doing something bigger, in the past we’ve done one day festival things, either a one day thing or on our own or a film festival with different groups and then we’ve talked about doing kids films on a housing estate but our capacity to do that is limited. We would support other people to do it with our films but it would need someone else saying why don’t we do this.
How do you want people to feel after seeing a film here?
Questioning. We want them talking to people.