I was working at Edinburgh’s Cameo Cinema when in October 1998, I heard tell of a Film Appreciation group that had expressed an interest in coming along to a regular monthly screening. The film was to be introduced by a senior member of staff who would provide a bit of background detail and would serve as an educational as well as entertaining experience.
When I discovered that many members of the group were pensioners and that the first film they were going to be shown was Buffalo ’66, the cynic in me could be heard to remark that this group weren’t likely to be frequenting these screenings for very long.
But they loved it. The fact that Buffalo ’66 is one of my all-time favourite films was a further reason that I should feel ashamed of my ignorant presumption. Why shouldn’t they have liked it?
This is a presumption we’re possibly all guilty of at some point. How many times have you heard of a friend going to see a film that you judge to be either be too horrific, intellectual, ironic, emotional or any number of things that your friend won’t grasp in the same way as you? It’s as ridiculous as deciding that everyone will enjoy something because you yourself have liked it.
Within a couple of months, I took over the role of introducing the films for the group and have done so ever since, continuing to do so despite having left the Cameo employ in 2010. I estimate that I must have introduced more than 100 films to them over this period. Of course, not all of them have gone down well but I think I’m safe in saying that a high percentage have gained a positive response.
The scope of film choices has, within reason, been without limits and everything from very low budget British independent films to American blockbusters to animation to Continental or Asian features and so on has found its way onto the list of selected viewings.
Obviously, I wouldn’t want to introduce something as extreme as Irreversible nor would I have inflicted 9 Songs upon them, and teen movies aren’t likely to get a favourable response either, however the vast majority of films screened at the Cameo are up for consideration.
I’ve often been and still am surprised at the unexpected reactions the group will have to a particular title. I was very wary of having them see Drive and used my introduction to provide detailed warnings of some of the violent scenes that were to come but, once again, my reservations were misplaced and it was a storming success.
On the other hand, a mistaken belief that a feel-good title such as Amelie will prove to be popular can leave my boast of “You’re all going to love this” hanging pointlessly in the air. Unless my memory deceives me, not one of them derived any great pleasure from that particular worldwide hit.
I’m also aware that it is not simply the viewing horizons of the group that are widened by this monthly exercise. The mechanics of the film release schedule can occasionally create a week in which there is not a film that I would normally choose to see. To facilitate a decent introduction, I have to put aside my apprehension and take the plunge with an unappealing work.
Of these titles, the most recent one that springs to mind is Potiche. I was dreading this experience but, to my great surprise, I thought it was highly entertaining. It transpired that very few of the group shared my enjoyment, and none of my friends were very impressed by it either. It’s fortunate that I hadn’t presumed they would. We live and learn.
The Film Appreciation group attends the Cameo Cinema monthly on Wednesday afternoons. Visit the Wester Hailes Education Centre website to find out more about their activities.
Do you attend a film appreciation group in Scotland? Let us know in the comments section below.