Secret Cinema and Future Cinema – Review

Rakshita Patel
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Secret Cinema is something I have been wanting to write about for a long time. For the uninitiated, Secret Cinema is a gathering of all that love challenging and groundbreaking cinema, screening mystery films in extraordinary locations. It is a growing community for all that love cinema, and experiencing the unknown.

secret cinema

The basic premise is that you buy a ticket to see a mystery film in a secret location. Leading up to the actual event, you are sent a series of clues through emails and social media networks which get you thinking about what the film could be. There are also a range of other ways you can get involved through Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, and it is entirely up to you how much you choose to steep yourself in the experience leading up to the day itself or if you prefer to leave it a surprise.

About a week beforehand, you are emailed the secret location and you go to the designated meeting place on the right day at the right time. The venues are unusual and extraordinary and could be anything from a disused factory warehouse to a graveyard. Your reward is to be totally immersed in the world of the film, which is re-created in terms of characters, setting, sets, costume, props etc, right down to the finest detail. You then have a few hours to explore the world of the film, before you settle down to watch the film at the end of the evening.

Initially, the idea of buying a ticket to see a film when you had no idea what the film was going to be did not appeal to me in the slightest. But several of my friends went to Secret Cinema, loved it and recommended it. So I decided to try it out for myself. Once I had experienced Secret Cinema, I was hooked and I have been going regularly ever since.

I have been to a wide range of Secret Cinema events including Lawrence of Arabia at Alexandra Palace, complete with a bustling Arab marketplace; and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in a disused mental hospital.

Future Cinema are the creators of Secret Cinema and are a live events company specialising in creating living, breathing cinematic experiences. They are now running events very similar to Secret Cinema; the difference being that you know what the film is in advance so you can prepare yourself more fully. Their events are an experience and a spectacle, allowing audiences to fully immerse themselves in the world of the film and to become active participants in that world.

I am writing about the most recent Future Cinema event I attended to give you an insight into, and a flavour of, both Secret Cinema and Future Cinema events. I went to Future Cinema‘s The Shawshank Redemption in January 2013. This event had been a Secret Cinema at the end of 2012, and it had proved to be so popular that they turned it into a Future Cinema presentation at the beginning of 2013.

The experience completely immersed you in the world of The Shawshank Redemption. I turned up at the Court with my Summons, was promptly sentenced by the Judge, and bundled into a blacked out bus/van which transported me to my new home, prison. I was stripped of my clothes and possessions, given a prison uniform, and locked up in a cell with tens of other inmates, with Bibles on the beds for company. Later I got to roam the prison, and got into all kinds of adventures relating to the film. I got to eat typical prison food in the canteen, exercise in the prison yard, witness prison fights between the inmates, borrow books from the prison library, and participate in a hymn singing session ending in a prison breakout. I enjoyed all the improvisations and interactions and the way the participants entered into the spirit by engaging with the actors and the other audience members at the event. The attention to detail was phenomenal, the actors were all spot-on, and it was a totally immersive experience.

shawshank redemption

Each participant had a totally unique and individual experience because it was based on where you chose to go, which characters you chose to follow, who you chose to interact with – actors and other participant – and how.

When I watched the film at the end of the evening, after all the build-up, I was reminded of just how powerful and moving a film The Shawshank Redemption was (I had not seen the film for many years). It is a film where, ultimately, good triumphs over evil, and justice is done; and it speaks very powerfully about the strength and the resilience of the human spirit, and how the human spirit can and will overcome any adversity.

This trailer gives you a glimpse of what Future Cinema’s The Shawshank Redemption was like:

Having attended Secret Cinema and Future Cinema events over a number of years, I feel that the events are getting bigger, better and more ambitious each time, and going from strength to strength.

All the Secret Cinema and Future Cinema events I have attended have been unique, unusual, innovative, exciting and fun. Immersing yourself in the world of the film for a few hours prior to seeing the film really enriches your experience of the film. It allows you to reach a deeper level of understanding, and enables you to appreciate and experience the film in a new way.

Secret Cinema events are held every few months so check their website regularly for details of upcoming events and/or register to receive regular emails and details of the next Secret Cinema event. Future Cinema’s next event is Dirty Dancing which will run for one weekend only (Friday 30 August, Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September 2013) in a secret outdoor East London location. Tickets available here. I am booked to attend!

About Rakshita Patel

Raks was born and brought up in Birmingham but has lived in London for over 20 years. She works in the public sector but her real passions are campaigning and culture - specifically theatre, film and TV. Her interests are eclectic and diverse and include LGBT, race, equalities, theatre, film, TV, politics and current affairs. Twitter: @MycroftBrolly