Escaping with film during lockdown

As our evenings get darker, winter looms and England heads into another lockdown, cinemas will once again be closing. It is an undeniably tough time, and I find it deeply sad that after a six-month closure earlier this year, the glimmering light of our projectors will be flickering off once more. Over the last couple of months, independent cinemas have worked tirelessly to become a safe place to escape to. Accustomed to working without blockbusters, we were well prepared to share a broad programme of films that could offer whatever solace our audiences needed. The support that we have received thus far has been nothing short of jaw-dropping, and we can’t thank you enough for that.

It’s in times like this I would usually turn to cinema screens, which have played an enormous role in my life thus far. There is something particularly special about watching a film as a shared experience, and what I love most about cinemas is that you can do that even if you are alone. In times of isolation I have taken great comfort in darkened screens, undertaking a new adventure with a smattering of strangers who happened to have bought the same ticket as me. I don’t think that that feeling can be replaced, and so I do not believe that any of this spells the end of cinema as we know it.

For now, I’d still like to draw attention to the magic of the movies, which have a unique ability to transport us to another world: a particularly welcome respite in times like this. Some of my favourite films from recent years are available for free on Channel 4’s online platform 4oD: Rungano Nyoni’s BAFTA Winner I Am Not A Witch, Park Chan-Wook’s erotic thriller The Handmaiden and Ruben Ostlund’s dark comedy Force Majeure to name a few.

A surprisingly large number of the movies I credit with starting my love affair with film, were discovered on Film4 in the dead of night. Historically, some of their best programming happens after 11pm (not because of racy content, but probably because these films were less exciting for advertisers). Thanks to a shift in viewing habits, these titles, previously reserved for the nocturnal among us, are available for free, online. I am genuinely blown away by what is available, and I’ll be embarking on many voyages

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This article first featured in the Sheffield Telegraph on 5 November 2020.


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