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FilmBath: getting creative during Covid

In the absence of cinemas in which we could run our annual film festival (30th Anniversary in 2020), FilmBath decided to get creative and hold a series of screenings at Green Park station.

When the suggestion for screening films there was first made, there were a lot of doubts expressed, and with good reason.

How much was it going to cost to provide sufficiently good equipment for the experience to be attractive? And who would provide it? Could we socially distance the audience? Would people come at that time of year? And would we be able to screen films that people wanted to see?

The answer to last question was made a lot easier when we were allowed to screen Chloe Zhao’s stupendous award-winning Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand. This film, which will by rights be a major Oscar contender, was screened twice on the opening night, and sold out on both occasions. At the other end of the five day event, we showed Supernova with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a gay couple facing an unbearable challenge. This also proved hugely popular.

In between we screened a number of excellent films, which managed to forefront the issue of being a young woman growing in a world where being young and female is not easy; and in the case of Miss Juneteenth, being Black as well. In short, the programme was an outstanding success, and we are hugely grateful to all the distributors who enabled us to show their films.

This terrific programme did indeed attract a very good audience, who came prepared to put up with wintry weather, and stayed to enjoy themselves unreservedly. The feedback, both at the time, and subsequently, was captured beautifully in the following question: “Can you do you it again?” Almost accidentally, we have stumbled across the perfect recipe for outdoor cinema - big screen, top projection, radio headphones and a roof in case of rain. Plus food and drink right behind you. All we need to do is move it earlier in the year so that audiences don’t have to wear three sweaters and long johns!

It took a great deal of hard work from very many people, mainly volunteers, but FilmBath is blessed with an amazing group of volunteers, who remain endlessly willing and eager to support our aims.

This event was as close to a cinema experience as the audience had had in a year, and the fact of it being outdoors was - apart from the Big Chill - one of the main reasons people enjoyed it. It was communal, it was unusual and it worked.

Philip Raby, Creative Director, Bath Film Festival

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