Imperfect Cinema


Contributor Ieuan Jones investigates Plymouth’s open-access film community.

Imperfect Cinema

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The May Day bank holiday saw the return of Imperfect Cinema to Plymouth. Held in the Underground bar on Mutley Plain, this was the first official event held by the project in nearly three years.

Imperfect Cinema is the brainchild of Plymouth-based film academics and all-round cineaste troublemakers Allister Gall and Dan Paolantonio. Founded in 2010, the idea behind the project is to create an open-access film community.

It’s “a space for making and watching films, firstly, and experimenting, having fun, and doing it with friends – bringing together people and ideas,” explains Allister. “Personally, I tried to make a film for each event, and I liked that discipline – it made me want to make something, to collaborate, test ideas, aesthetics and styles.”

Imperfect Cinema very much aims to promote a do-it-yourself environment and is most popular for its “open reel” section, in which anyone and everyone can participate by exhibiting short films they have made. The films are only a few minutes long each, can tackle any subject and be in any form, whether this involves a story, a mini-documentary or something much more abstract. Shorts have included everything from daily diaries to micro horror movies and slapstick comedies, and most things in between. From their modest origins in the bars and social clubs of Plymouth, Imperfect Cinema has gone on to exhibit in galleries and shows in London and New York, as well as many other film festivals.

Apart from taking its roots from punk-DIY, Imperfect Cinema was also inspired by the Cuban filmmaker Julio García Espinosa (whose essay “For an Imperfect Cinema” gave the project it’s name). Allister says that, following Espinosa’s death earlier this year, “It seemed really important that we start again. Espinosa said that, just as in our social life we’re looking for better means of self-fulfilment, cinema should look to do the same. So creating open-access venues for people to make and watch films together, with no quality control or house style, and doing it in a social context, is an important part of a contemporary idea of imperfect cinema.”

But it is not for Allister and Dan to try and dictate the direction of the project themselves – quite the opposite. The aim is for those participating – whether by submitting their own films or coming along to share ideas – to take the driving seat.

One interesting development out of this philosophy has been the spin-off Imperfect Orchestra, a group of amateurs who live score original films (such as the recent Tamar) as well as existing movies, like their live score last Halloween of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, complete with costumes and sound effects.

The matinee itself aimed to be celebratory – there was a showreel of past classics from the vaults, as well as some new films and an open discussion about the project’s future. Allister explains that there are also his own plans away from this for a feature film which would tour social clubs throughout the UK. In keeping with the idea of participation it will have a live score at each showing created by, well, the audience themselves, of course!

So there is plenty of life left in independent cinema in the city after all. Whatever you do, when coming to Imperfect Cinema expect the unexpected. Come get involved!

Watch this space for upcoming events in the Imperfect Cinema calendar, including showreels and live scores from the Imperfect Orchestra in venues across the city. Visit their website or Facebook page for more details.