December 17, 2018

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The Labia is South Africa’s oldest independent art cinema. The Labia is South Africa’s oldest independent art cinema. Rodger Bosch

Flying the flag for old-fashioned entertainment

Dec 05, 2016

In this age of small-screen entertainment, it is heart-warming to see a number of people flying the flag for the pleasures of old-fashioned, communal, independent cinema in Cape Town. 

The Labia Theatre is for many Capetonians the very heart of their city. The romantic art deco building began its life as a ballroom and was then converted into a theatre, before becoming an independent cinema in the mid-1970s.

The current owner Ludi Kraus took over the establishment 27 years ago and it is thanks to his devoted custody that the cinema survives with all its independence and cherished identity intact.

In 2014 it was saved from the very real threat of closure by a successful crowd-funding campaign. It now has four screens, more comfortable seats and an expanded patio, and can be hired for events. But the essential elements so beloved of its patrons remain unaltered and there is not a hint of corporatisation. The staff have worked there for decades and have forged personal relationships with many of the regular cinema-goers.

The programme which includes independent films, small film festivals, and some commercial hits, changes every Friday. A few times a month, at 11:00 on a Sunday morning, the Fugard Bioscope screens classic films and filmed plays such as the National Theatre Live series.

On 4 December there was the much talked-about production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch filmed live on the London stage. On 18 December there is Ida, a black and white film by Pawel Pawlikowski which tells the story of a young woman about to take her vows as a Catholic nun when she learns that her parents were Jewish and sets out on a road trip into the Polish countryside to find out the fate of her family.

The Cinémalliance programme at the Alliance Française in Bree Street has free screenings of French movies with English subtitles every Tuesday evening at 18:30. It is a convivial experience with tables and chairs and a bar. (Also worth noting are their Culture for Kids workshops one Saturday a month and their Cabaret- Jazz nights on the last Friday of the month). The Cape Town International Dance Festival includes an intriguing programme of short films about contemporary dance with an African focus.

There are a number of South African films and items from Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Rwanda. There are two programmes to be screened on the same day at 13:00 and 17:30 on 2 December at the Centre for the Book. The Galileo open-air cinema has a film screening every night somewhere in Cape Town till the end of April and on Thursday evenings they are at the V&A Waterfront on the Croquet Lawn. Not a very inspiring line-up in general for December and January but one highlight is Birdman showing on 26 January 2017.

Last modified on Monday, 05 December 2016 09:49
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