UK's "Secret Cinema" takes shadowy screenings to Afghanistan

Thu Dec 8, 2011 11:42am EST
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By Daniel Magnowski

KABUL (Reuters) - In a dusty, dimly lit Kabul basement, British cinema fan club 'Secret Cinema' launched their first movie event outside Britain on Thursday evening, bringing costume, audience participation and light-hearted mystery to the high-security Afghan capital.

The group has built up a following in Britain by showing critically acclaimed films in unusual locations, creating a fun atmosphere for film buffs and, crucially, keeping the name of the movie under wraps until the lights go down.

The key to choosing Kabul, whose potholed roads, sketchy communications and ubiquitous security emplacements do not easily lend themselves to meticulously planned art events, was the desire to show a dimension of the city beyond violence, fear, and the ongoing military campaign.

"People say 'the Taliban will come' ... but there's also lots of other life going on, not just the terror," said Fabien Riggall, creative director and founder of Secret Cinema, speaking from London.

"The idea is that anyone, anywhere should have access to film ... I'm very passionate about the idea that culture should be made available to people."

Riggall was inspired by Afghanistan-based artist Travis Beard, who earlier this year organized a music festival in Kabul -- a rare event in a city better known worldwide for suicide attacks like Tuesday's huge blast at a Shi'ite Muslim festival which killed more than 50 people.

"Kabul is starving, it's thirsty for more cultural activities," said Beard, who organized Thursday's screening.

The select group of Western and Afghan film fans who gathered after sundown had been given clues about the film via Facebook, but the exact location of the screening was only revealed shortly before the screening began.   Continued...