An in focus look at MAC's film programme | May 2021
David Baldwin, MAC Cinema Producer
Being confined to a house for months on end certainly gives you a chance to think.
As I write this, MAC is two weeks away from reopening, after spending over 400 days shut thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. An unthinkable situation just the year before, when the MAC cinema was welcoming record audience numbers. Many people online were quick to proclaim the death of cinema, as the number of people subscribing to streaming services sky rocketed. And as a cinema programmer, there was nothing I could do but watch and wait as the industry I work in faced an existential crisis.
But as the weeks and months passed, it gave me time to think not only about whether audiences would return, but also about what they would be offered when they hopefully did.
As an arts organisation that caters to one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the UK, it’s paramount that we offer a wealth of different experiences and points of view. Sometimes, that desire to appeal to different communities can lead to ‘box ticking’ – doing a few LGBTQ+ screenings across one weekend or offering a number of films by black directors across a specific month, then patting ourselves on the back that we’ve ‘done our bit’. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, no doubt.
What I committed to as we began to look at a reopening date for the MAC cinema was ensuring that our new programme would look to more effectively weave diversity and inclusion into our daily programme. We’ll still have festivals and one-off events aimed at specific audiences, but our regular programme will feature different viewpoints and stories from a wide range of filmmakers, without feeling the need to box them all together into categories.
We'll also ensure that at least one film per week will have been directed by a woman – not a season, but an ongoing commitment that will continue into 2022 and beyond.
That ambition has been helped immensely by the funding awarded to us by the BFI FAN Covid-19 Resilience fund from the National Lottery and the BFI Film Audience Fund, giving us a financial safety net to ensure that our reopening programme could be as unique and diverse as I wanted it to be, and also allowing me to bring in new voices – specifically Elaine Lillian Joseph, who has joined us in a freelance capacity to bring her knowledge to the films we select, as well as cover any blind spots I might have as a programmer.
Put simply, we hope you can join us at MAC cinema for what amounts to a new beginning – one which I hope will set the path for an exciting future.