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Cinema for Inclusion

Date posted: 27.07.2011

Non-profit organisation Open Cinema is a nationwide network of film clubs programmed by and for homeless people. It is aimed at those suffering from social exclusion across the country, providing them not only with escapism, but also with opportunities to reflect, socialise, learn a craft and rebuild their confidence.

Funded by Film London through the Educations 'Hubs' Fund, the organisation is launching Open Cinema London Connect, a programme of screenings of recent releases and modern classics accompanied by talks by industry experts and personalities from the world of film. An organised visit to a film studio and a post-production house is also part of the programme.

Starting in early August, two new film seasons will be hosted by homelessness support agencies B.Hug and St Mungo's in Brent and Caysh in Croydon. Under the titles Homegrown Stories and The Kids Aren't Alright, the three-month programmes are especially curated following feedback from the club members.

"Homegrown Stories focuses on multiculturalism, recent history and the stories of people from a range of different cultures but who had all grown up in the UK. The Kids Aren't Alright is aimed at a much younger audience, focusing instead on the demonization of youth but again incorporating questions concerning race and equality. The important thing was to create two seasons of titles that would draw as large an audience as possible whilst containing themes strong enough to discuss at length following the screening", explains Open Cinema's Nino Hunter.

B.Hug, which focuses on finding employment for homeless people and Caysh, centred on helping homeless youth, are collaborating with Open Cinema for the first time. "The focus on young homeless, particularly at Caysh, is relatively new. We are really looking forward to the challenge and are expecting a lot of untamed energy and curiosity", says Hunter.

Based in Hoxton, Open Cinema started operating in 2005, when film-maker and founder Christoph Warrack was co-ordinating a weekly soup kitchen in central London. Warrack couldn't help noticing the coincidence of London's West End being a centre of the film industry as well as having a large number of homeless people and he decided to use his contacts to bring classic and contemporary films, together with their makers, into an environment of social outreach.

As Hunter explains: "We have found from past experience that cinema is an immensely effective tool for drawing in these most vulnerable, isolated members of society and getting them talking to each other, sharing ideas and information with centre staff as well as with guest speakers from a whole range of sectors, from film to IT. We hope that our events will open our members' eyes to the huge range of educational and career opportunities available to them within the film industry and beyond, and in turn that they will be inspired to pursue these exciting opportunities with vigour and enthusiasm."

The seasons at B.Hug & St Mungo's and Caysh start in August and are available to members of the support agencies. Full details of Open Cinema London Connect can be found on the organisation's website.

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