Being able to attend a screening day is always a great opportunity, the chance to watch the latest independent and arthouse releases is a sure fire way to fan programming excitement. My previous programming day at the BFI Southbank brought a diverse range of programming to Curzon Cinema & Arts where I work as the General Assistant. Including I Am Not Your Negro, Their Finest (which gave us the unexpected pleasure of Producer Stephen Woolley stopping by for a chat with our audience) and The Levelling one of the most popular Curzon Specials of the year. So when the excuse to attend the ICO Young Audiences Screening Day in Leicester arrived I jumped at the chance, not least because as of recently turning 24 I enjoy every excuse to convince myself I still count as a young person.
Saturday began with the soulful Gods Own Country, a story of a young man in the isolation of rural yorkshire yearning for any escape. Then to close out the morning we had our first focus group session of the weekend, a small selection of young programmers chosen for their input on what young people want from cinema. The common idea to emerge from the group was that we enjoy films to feel like an event that won’t come around again, Q&A’s and themed extras all help give a reason to go out and enjoy a film instead of just firing up Netflix from the sofa.
Following the focus group was Insyriated, a harrowing chamber piece set in a single apartment as a family and their neighbours struggle to survive another day in modern Syria. Then the final film Loveless presented a mysterious Russian morality tale of self obsessed parents and their missing son. Saturday evening brought some welcome drinks after a day of three heavy films, and whilst I thought three movies in a day was my limit I did watch the Ian Dury biopic in my hotel room later, which was awesome.
Sunday’s features proved lighter, on the whimsical side of the table. Daphne presented a young woman reconciling with her demons in a lonely city which leant interesting comparison to Gods Own Country. Hotel Salvation was perhaps the least accessible to a young audience but the most uplifting of the six we saw, we love it dark and dreary. Lastly Patti Cake$ gave a quirky underdog tale of a young New Jersey rapper. Sundays focus group shone a light on the themes the youth orientated films chose. Loneliness, isolation and overcoming personal grief all rang true throughout. An idea at odds with the 21st centuries previous staples of young persons entertainment seen in Skins or American Pie.
Before I could say “I’m going to be young forever” I was 48 hours older and was heading home. Perhaps one of the most heartening things about the weekend was how the group had just as many varied feelings and opinions as you’d expect from a group young or old. Proving unexpectedly that young people are indeed actual people. Getting the chance to give my opinion on film felt like a valuable occasion in itself, as well as inspiring some thought provoking ideas for programming that will be well used at Curzon Cinema & Arts.