A sell out audience in the back room at the Fox were witness to a remarkable evening last week as Talkies Community Cinema premiered four new, locally-made short films commissioned as part of the “Here” festival.

Talkies is a not-for-profit and volunteer-run, pop-up cinema led by David Williamson and Steve Foster. They have been screening films in pubs, cafés and church halls around Palmers Green and Southgate for a couple of years. However Talkies is more than just movies. Films form part of a great night out and are accompanied by live music, a quiz, discussions with filmmakers – food and drink …even a game of bingo!  In a new venture Talkies are planning to set up new screenings in Bounds Green and Bowes Park.

After a couple of years of presenting existing cinema in exciting venues the Here Film festival provided an opportunity to create new pieces of cinema. Four short films were commissioned through a competitive bidding process, each of the filmmakers was asked to address the theme of the festival – Suburbia. As the Talkies team say:

“HERE is about the diversity of interests, people and places in the suburbs of London. HERE is not in the West End, Southbank or Shoreditch. HERE in the suburbs we aren’t the swanky super-rich, the celebrity glitterati or bearded hipsters. HERE is where the cinema creatives of London produce their best output. HERE is where life is a rich diversity of race, religion and culture. HERE is where most of London lives.”

The first half of the evening featured a set of short films on the suburban theme curated by Short Sighted Cinema – an excellent mix some of which are available online – I’d particularly recommend having a look at Andy Oxley's “Born to be Mild” focussed on the “exploits” of the Dull Men’s Club.

In the second half of the evening each of the four commissioned films was shown – followed by a question and answer session with the director.

First up was Platform 1 by Jessica Bishopp. A simple idea resulted in a moving and powerful short film. Jessica connected with Anita Correia the owner of the café business on Palmers Green station and followed a typical morning – opening the shutters before the first train at 5:30 am; serving hot drinks and pastries to weary, early-morning commuters and recording their thoughts as they gear up for a days work. Jessica’s film, whilst focussed on the mundane, revealed some beautiful and important moments: people in transition from home to work reflecting on what they were going to … and what they had just left behind. All shot on location, the film conveys weighty content – yet does so using few, carefully chosen, words spoken by the subjects. A terrific start to the programme.

The second film, Ponders End by Kieron Clarke is a darkly mysterious piece which explores how different generations occupy the same space in the suburban housing stock. It touched on themes of gentrification and how the “ghosts” of previous owners and residents are still present in the lives of the current occupiers; “extraordinary things happening in ordinary places”.  Mostly interior shots – some in semi darkness - the film conveys the insular and inward looking approach of the main protagonist.   There is a timelessness and continual recurrence to the cycle of life in the suburbs yet this experience is ephemeral as each generation moves in, grows up and moves on.

No Birds Sing a film by Harriet MacDonald also plays with the idea of time. Her premise is an injured Knight returning home from the 12th century crusades arriving in 21st century Palmers Green – on a 329 bus! Subtly drawing on the history of local place names and more recent diversity and demographic changes in the area “No Birds Sing” demonstrates that people who occupy the same space may perceive it very differently. As Harriet said. “Here can be hell to one person and heaven to another”. Whilst following the Knight’s progress through the suburbs – there were some terrific location shots – made all the more interesting as I recognised the places.

Finally The New River Ballade by Flora Bradwell is a delightful “mockumentary” telling the story of Sophie – an enthusiast who takes her love for the New River to extreme lengths. It’s a wonderfully observed, uplifting piece, with a universal story about people who take an idea one step further than is reasonable – made all the more fascinating because the object of desire is a well known local feature. On this website we have carried  lots of stories about local people’s passion for the New River (which as Sophie points out with brilliant comic effect is “…neither a river nor new”) The excellent central performance by Madeleine MacMahon, the supporting cast and the wonderful original music all contribute to this magnificent little masterpiece.

The films will each be screened at future festivals and events by the directors - a trailer featuring each film is embeded below do have a look. Overall it is remarkable that the volunteer efforts led by Talkies have now helped to create four new pieces of original cinema; supported young filmmakers to progress and,  along the way providing local folk with a great night out.

Talkies is a very special and well-supported project - almost every screening is a sell-out.  Over the coming months they have plans to increase the number of events and broaden the range of venues – particularly in the Bounds Green and Bowes Park area. The project relies on volunteers to keep it going, if you’d like to be part of a team programming and screening films locally – leave a message below or get in contact by e-mail.


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