01 Black and Minority Ethnic (BME)

One of the strengths of programming Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) cinema is that it gives a history, identity and voice to cultures which otherwise may be buried under the slew of American and British commercial cinema which chooses not to reflect the experiences of BME audiences.  By programming BME films – including features, shorts, archive material and documentaries from across their respective diasporas you both attract these cultures to your cinema, broadening your audience for all kinds of cinema, and also allow all audiences to gain an insight into the cultures depicted onscreen.  It also can make your venue more welcoming to a wider community and allow you to start a conversation with a wider audience.

The BME cultures in your catchment area themselves get to have a dialogue with their own culture which a white British culture (and certainly white American) culture takes for granted and probably doesn’t even ever think about.  It’s interesting to consider not only the programme content itself but how it is being watched and how welcoming the culture of your bricks and mortar building may be to a BME audience (the same applies for example to young or old audiences or any that are outside of the mainstream cinema demographic of 16-24 year olds).

Audiences from different cultures watch films in different ways.  Nollywood audiences are famed for actively and vocally engaging with the characters they see on screen (booing, cheering etc.).  This can be a shock for an audience more used to the hushed reverence of, say, the BFI Southbank.  But it’s exactly how these filmmakers intended and anticipated their films being watched.

Ask yourself how welcoming your cinema is to cultures other than mainstream white British?  What kind of food is on offer?  Where is the programme advertised? Have links been forged with local BME groups to make them aware of what you are screening?  What is a BME audience?  For example what is a black film and what is its intended audience?  Think of just how disparate the audiences for a film by Noel Clarke, Spike Lee, Leslie Harris, Steve McQueen, Safi Faye, Antoine Fuqua, Djibril Diop Mambety, Charles Burnett, Lee Daniels, Julie Dash, Mahamet Saleh Haroun, Haile Gerima, Youssef Chahine, Ousemane Sembene, Michel Ocelot are.  Pretty quickly it becomes apparent that black cinema, and BME programming in general is not one kind of cinema. You need to think about your audience not as something homogenous but open to many different factors including education, geography, income, transport, gender, access and age among others.

These are the same issues all cinemas deal with regularly in both their programming and cinema environment and the same wide range of thinking should be levelled at BME programming.

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