This Thursday, at 8 pm, Mini-Ciné Reykjavík will be screening Gillies MacKinnon’s Hideous Kinky. The film, an adaptation from Esther Freud’s (great-granddaughter of a certain Sigmund) autobiographical novel bearing the same title, follows a woman and her two young daughters in their attempt to break free from the dreary lifestyle of urban England in the 70’s. The plan is to start anew in Morocco. Embarking on her journey as many other young people adhering to cultural unrest during the 60’s and the early 70’s, Julia — the mother, played by Kate Winslet — discovers new edges both to her womanhood and to her mother role. Centered on family dynamics at work in an alien environment — the culturally seductive and yet challenging Morocco –, the film offers an interesting depiction of complex relational conflicts on the path to acceptance and responsibility.
Apart from the intrinsic value of the film, Hideous Kinky‘s screening will help raising funds to finance an English teaching project in benefit of adults and children alike that Mrs. Mini-Ciné will be undertaking this summer in Morocco. The project is maintained by ASTVS (you can look at their site if you want to learn more about their mission and activities), a non-profit organization based in Errachidia, in South-East Morocco. As I see it, this is definitely a valid reason to go.
Some of you will maybe remember my initial disappointment for the shortage of alternatives to the highly mercenary, mindlessly commercial cinema at the time of my arrival in Iceland. Mainly out of delusions of grandeur, at some point I had seriously fantasized about starting my own cineclub in Reykjavík — but I also fantasized about getting a cat: I’m not very reliable. In the course of the months, however, the situation acquired much less catastrophic tones. Don’t get me wrong: cinema consumption in Iceland is still primarily dominated by the worst movie industry (now in 3D!) and the industry is mainly ruled by a bunch of culturally ruthless individuals that show little or no interest to cultivate the audience.
Anyway, there were slight signs of improvement from that first post, thanks to a few events that made things more bearable. Apart from RIFF, which undoubtedly remains the most important film event in Iceland, and a handful of other occasional occurrences, the biggest development was last September’s opening of Bíó Paradís, where the former Regnboginn (the first multiplex in Europe, according to their site) used to be. I had many occasions to bring to your attention a few of the events taking place at Bíó Paradís.
One of the relevant events going on at the aforementioned Bíó Paradís is the monthly appointment with Mini-Ciné. I’m not 100% sure how Mini-Ciné should be labeled. I guess cineclub will do, at least in its current manifestation. Anyway, the story of this cineclub is truly out of the ordinary.
Imagine arriving in Seyðisfjörður, a small fishing village in East Iceland, barely reaching eight hundred souls. Winters there are long and somnolent and snow piles up in ridiculous amounts. Summers, however, are splendid: radiant and ephemeral. Foreigners flock to Iceland by sea; when they land in Seyðisfjörður, what they find there is unlike anything they know. In this place, so strange and fascinating, they stumble upon this bizarre experiment called Mini-Ciné: cineclub, cultural center, lounge, and everything else in between. In Mr. Harazi’s (Mr. Mini-Ciné) words , “Mini-Ciné was very popular with foreign tourists, who were surprised to find such a place in such a small town.”
This was up to a few months ago. Unfortunately, Seyðisfjörður didn’t offer enough to justify a longer-term project. Therefore, Mini-Ciné relocated its base of operations in Reykjavík and, as far as I know, is still looking for permanent headquarters.
Even in a bigger city like Reykjavík, keeping the project alive isn’t that easy. The local audience, as I was lamenting previously, is not in the least dedicated or easily attracted by anything diverging from habitual fruition patterns. Habitual patterns include: socializing, skipping entire film scenes to get soda refills, and so on. To borrow Woody Allen’s quote,
Why the Icelander goes to the movies? He goes for food. And not only for food: frequently, there must be a beverage.
It may seem a paradox, but whereas in other countries huge numbers allow to make up for the ignorance of the vast majority, in Iceland, where on average people are more educated but population is limited, it’s harder for smaller-scale cultural projects to express their full potential. “It’s very hard to keep Mini-Ciné going in an environment devoid of knowledge, respect and appreciation for film culture and history. It’s very sad that the only art house cinema in the country has to be publicly funded, and even then, the attendance levels are low,” explained Mr. Harazi. Bíó Paradís, that currently hosts Mini-Ciné’s screenings, is run by a local non-profit organization.
Art house films are only rarely able to tickle common moviegoers’ curiosity, as they have the tendency to devote themselves to mannerism at the expenses of content. However, Mini-Ciné’s selection criteria are far from being inaccessible — and poor accessibility is what usually drives the audience away from cineclubs. All the films screened so far are portrayals of uncommon characters finding themselves at the edge of what society deems acceptable. Every film expresses what it’s like to be an outsider in certain given circumstances. The outcome is always subtle: taking a stand, whether for the better or for the worse, is not necessarily uplifting and reassuring. All films were reminders that human possibilities are perhaps not endless, but they are at any rate more varied than what conventions would lead us to assume. Which is perhaps also a way for Mini-Ciné — and for the cinema medium, too — to reflect on itself, as Mr. Harazi seems to confirm, “the whole idea of Mini-Ciné in Seyðisfjörður was to show people that there is another way of watching films than sitting in a stadium, eating popcorn and drinking Coke, just as there are thousands of films that never make it into conventional cinemas.”
The appointment is for this Thursday with Hideous Kinky. See you there.
PS: In the meantime, if you want to know more and if you are interested in being updated on future screenings, you can check out Mini-Ciné on FaceBook.
Photos courtesy of H. Harazi.