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MAC Monthly: On Screen - Elaine Lillian Joseph

Tue 15 June 2021
Still from Rafiki (2019), directed by Wanuri Kahiu

Last year, MAC was awarded funding by the BFI FAN Covid-19 Resilience fund from the National Lottery and the BFI Film Audience Fund, which gave our independent cinema a desperately-needed financial safety net. 

This lifeline of funding not only allowed David Baldwin (MAC's Cinema Producer) to plan a reopening season of interesting and diverse screenings and special guest Q&As, but to also bring in new voices to contribute to our film programme and planning.

We are thrilled to announce Elaine Lillian Joseph will now be working with us at MAC to ensure what we show on our screens appeals to and represents as many people and stories as possible. Elaine has worked with the likes of Flatpack Festival and Birmingham Open Media, and currently provides audio description for a number of ITV programmes. Her knowledge, expertise and perspective will help us to hand-pick even more exceptional films for our audiences, and to - in his own words - "cover any blind spots" David might have as a programmer.

Elaine shared with us her thoughts on beginning this new role in partnership with MAC:

The very last thing I did before staying home became the norm in 2020, was go to the cinema. Armed with a bag of Starbursts and a fizzy drink, I sat with two friends in the dark, in comfy chairs and basked in the surround sound and giant screen in front of me. During the interval I noticed two teenagers furiously making out at the back. Isn’t there always a couple furiously making out at the cinema? When the film finished and we all traipsed out to catch our various buses home, I never imagined that a year on, I’d still be attending virtual film festivals and screensharing films over Skype on online dates. More than pubs or clubs, I can’t wait to get my bum in front of the big screen again.

In November 2020 I received a DM on Twitter from David Baldwin, Cinema Producer at the MAC. Yes, Twitter can be a cesspit of wild takes and whataboutisms but sometimes it can be a place to connect with people I wouldn’t normally come across. David’s message was unexpected and exciting. A chance to choose films for the MAC’s reopening cinema programme with an emphasis on female filmmakers. I don’t think that David knew quite how much I love the MAC. I’ve been going since I was a tot. I remember the Punch and Judy outdoor puppet shows, the foreign films I’d drag my school friends to on the weekend. To say I’m chuffed to be working with this cinema is an understatement, (teenage Elaine would be freaking out) and you best believe I’m going to be pumping the programme with Caribbean women, transwomen, queer women, and women hailing from the best region in the country - the Midlands.

I approach film programming with many different hats. I currently work for ITV in London, as an audio describer. This basically means that I produce recorded scripts that play over their content and make the experience accessible for blind or partially sighted viewers. On the side, I’m a subtitler for the hard of hearing, a German translator and a film festival programmer. So my background is watching, describing, and translating films. Hopefully you’ll be able to see that in the films I’ve chosen.

In the coming months, expect to see Rafiki, a Kenyan film directed by Wanuri Kahiu from 2018. The candy-coloured braids and tentative beginnings of a teenage romance, all left me wanting more. Seriously, this film would make a great series. Plus it always sits better with my soul when a lesbian sex scene is directed by a woman. Mädchen in Uniform (“Girls in Uniform”), a German film from the 30s by Christa Winsloe formerly Baroness Christa Hatvany de Hatvan (what a name!) which features a salacious goodnight kiss between two women. A very early example of queer cinema. And absolute avant garde powerhouse Monika Treut. A good friend gifted me her entire works this year, so I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to screen her in Brum.

I for one am looking forward to that moment when the lights dim and a film starts and for an hour or two I’m in the company of my favourite, trailblazing women.