Saturday, 11 September 2010

A matter of life and death in Nunhead cemetery

Free films in my local area! What's not to like? Even better, the films are in special outdoor settings. Last night it was one of my all time favourites A Matter of Life and Death (affectionately known as AMOLAD) in my local cemetery. Apparently it was the overall winner in a poll to decide what should be shown in this new festival and was an inspired choice. The screening was at 8pm and there were seats for 120 - everyone else had to bring their folding chairs or take a chance on the gravel. Blankets were recommended and alcohol was strictly forbidden so I set off with an extra cardi and a flask of coffee.

There was only space for 250 and apparently 100 people were turned away at the gate. Tickets were a strip of 35mm film (still trying to work out what mine is from). I was soon happily seated and enjoying the atmosphere as the skies darkened and we were treated to animation films by local children. Then a total surprise for me. A screening of a British Transport Films (BTF) classic from the 1950s, The Elephant will Never Forget. Directed by Edgar Anstey, this short film is about the last tram in south London and it is a gem. I had a job in the 1980s where I marketed the BTF documentary films on video and met Anstey and many of the crew from that great era. I had seen the Elephant film many times and it was a good experience to see it again after ten years. Tears of nostalgia were soon flowing and were even more so when the main film began.

I am fortunate to have met Michael Powell, Jack Cardiff, Holly Hunter and Joan Maude. I am particularly glad to have known Joan who I spent several days with in her home in Lewes. She became a good friend and she delighted in sharing her stories of acting in the 1930s in films like Turn of the Tide (1936) and, of course AMOLAD. She could have had a long career in film but chose to retire when she married her husband, a newspaper editor.

The last time I saw AMOLAD was a special screening at London's Barbican cinema. Joan was there with another dear friend, Eric Cross who was a cameraman on Turn of the Tide. I often forget that I knew these remarkable people who were at the forefront of the British film industry. Last night I remembered them all and in the perfect setting.

So thank you to the folk that put this event together and for all the others that they are running over the next few days.Blues Brothers on Peckham Common, Nosferatu on the top floor of the multi storey car park. Inspired!


  1. Sounds fab. And a great opportunity for name-dropping there!!

  2. well it wasn't meant to be really ... I should have explained more. It was the time that I was with my ex who was in the film industry and we did do some amazing things. I was feeling nostalgic and sentimental. That is the thing about films and songs, the way they take you back to the past. I love the way cinema captures people at different times in their lives. Joan was astonished that we were so interested in her film past as most people she met knew nothing of it. She was nearly ninety when she died. It was all so long ago.


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