Tag Archives: Shoreditch

The Masks We Face: Rachell Smith distinguishes herself from the Rankin file

7 Oct

Left to right: photographer Rachell Smith, one of the masked models, and make-up artist Khandiz Joni

It’s great when a Big Idea hits you. A Big Idea is simple, so simple that as soon as you say it, people respond warmly. The best film pitches are like that: simple ideas, with heart as well as a twist.

The Masks We Face, an art/photography exhibition on a massive street wall in Shoreditch, is a Big Idea. It consists of giant portraits of 24 people, each of whom is shot with a mask painted on their faces – including new eyes drawn over closed lids, sometimes manga-sized, which looks freakishly real and yet not quite.

At the launch this weekend, photographer Rachell Smith explained how photography is about trying to get to the “real you” – her last exhibition, Beauty Portraits Un-Touched, was of models without any retouching or post-production; now she is using make-up to recognise the fact that we all adopt a mask, a public persona, to make us look better than we really are.

Rachell’s collaborator, make-up artist Khandiz Joni, adds: “Can I let you in on a secret? The masks I drew are their faces.” I look baffled, so she adds: “We asked them to send in pictures of themselves; I based the masks on the expressions they wore in these pictures, then painted them on for Rachell to shoot.”

The results, as you can see for yourself if you walk down Great Eastern Street before October 11, are stunning.


Rachell, incidentally, worked as Rankin’s assistant for three years before striking out on her own. Rankin used to shoot our Time Out covers for mate’s rates in the ‘90s when he was starting out (I particularly remember his North v South London dual covers; Kylie in boxing gear, with just ten minutes for the shoot; and saving our arses on the night before we went to press with an improvised cover shoot for London Fashion Week — no clothes, so the model was draped in a Union Jack tea towel).

ImageRachell, in turn, has done some fantastic fashion and portrait shoots for The Book, the student glossy I’ve been helping out on till recently. Having dropped in on one of Rachell’s cover shoots (right), I can honestly say she is AMAZING. Huge positive energy, great at putting subjects at their ease, overflowing with ideas, but also a dedicated perfectionist who gets everything just so.

Remember the name. www.rachellsmith.com

From hot tubs to the British Museum: outdoor and out-there screenings in London

29 Aug

Immerse yourself in movies: Hot Tub Cinema in Shoreditch

Growing up in Canada, I loved the drive-in. That’s where, at a tender age, I was shocked to the core when little Bonnie broke her neck in Gone With The Wind. That’s where I watched Laurence of Arabia hold his hand in the flame: “The ‘trick’, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.” The giant screens made these scenes even more indelible. Later, I realised what a mythology there was around the drive-in itself, how it inspired movie scenes such as Grease, or American Graffiti.

How sad that there are none in London.

But wait – there kind of are. They are just drive-ins without the car. Outdoor screenings have really taken off this summer, and in some of the most unusual places. And though the Bank Holiday Weekend has come and gone, the movie summer lasts until late September.

Nomad Cinema is one of the most interesting. They have just today announced a series of monthly boutique screenings at the Hox hotel, with 50 plush seats and a free cocktail and popcorn for your tenner. The first one, the brilliant Brit crime thriller Sexy Beast, is in a month’s time, September 29; at time of writing there were still tickets available, but they won’t be for long.


Edward Scissorhands at Brompton Cemetery, in the Nomad Cinema season

But that’s indoors: Nomad’s signature is outdoor screenings – the drive-in without the drive – and their programming is superb. Fulham Palace hosts Woody Allen’s greatest film, Annie Hall, tonight (tickets still available), with When Harry Met Sally following next Thursday Sep 5. Ghostbusters plays at Roundwood Park on Fri Sep 6; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at Queen’s Park on Sat Sep 7; Edward Scissorhands in the suitably Gothic surrounds of Brompton Cemetery on Wed Sep 11 (Donnie Darko the previous evening is sold out); and at Hyde Park Lido, Wong Kar-Wai’s spellbinding In The Mood For Love on Fri Sep 20, and Godard’s game-changing masterpiece Breathless on Sun Sep 22.  

There’s way more! It gets wet ‘n’ wild at the Hot Tub Cinema on the roof of Rockwell House in Shoreditch, after a few too many cocktails. The programmers go for cheesy fun hits: September is mostly sold out, but there are still tickets for Team America (Sep 10), Top Gun (Sep 13), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sep 15) – expect everyone in their tubs to be acting out the sexy “Don’t dream it, be it” pool scene at the end.

The Rooftop Film Club have too many films to mention, programmed throughout September at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch; the Bussey Building in Peckham; Springbridge Car Park in Ealing Broadway and the Kensington Roof Gardens.

Pop Up Screens does what it says on the tin. Of the September films that haven’t yet sold out, V for Vendetta at Coram Fields (Aug 30) and Fight Club at Ravenscourt Park Hammersmith (Sep 13) are maybe too serious for the outdoor treatment. I’d go for The Blues Brothers (Sep 14) or The Wizard of Oz (Sep 15), both at Ravenscourt Park. Sing along.


Luna Cinema at Brockwell Lido

Luna Cinema has some amazing venues. Leeds Castle shows Blues Brothers and Casablanca (Sep 6 and 7); Dulwich Park shows Django Unchained (Sep 5), Argo (Sep 8) and This Is Spinal Tap (Sep 19); Kew Gardens hosts Cinema Paradiso, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Dirty Dancing and Ghostbusters (Sep 12-15); and I rather fancy The Breakfast Club at my local Brockwell Lido in Brixton (Sep 18).

Future Cinema, which is by the same team as Secret Cinema but just not so secret, presents Dirty Dancing in its usual lavish style this weekend, when Hackney Downs will be transformed into Kellerman’s Vacation Resort. Friday and Saturday are sold out, even at £35 a ticket, but you can still have the time of your lives on Sunday Sep 1.

The Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festival is Sep 5-15, and includes a bike-powered Edward Scissorhands on Peckham Rye (Sep 7), Skyfall at the Employment Academy (Sep 8, free but bring a food donation for Southwark Foodbank), and the terrific music doc Searching for Sugar Man (Sep 10) outside Rye Books, with free wine and popcorn.

There’s also a more sedate rival, the More London Free Film Festival (Sep 11-27), held at the Scoop amphitheatre by City Hall with Tower Bridge looming to one side. The line-up is impressive, starting with Skyfall and ending with Grease, The Sound of Music or Rocky Horror – voted on by the public and announced on Sep 2.

Not outdoors, but still unusual and spectacular: this coming weekend the BFI programmes three vintage horror classics in the vast forecourt of the British Museum. Monster Weekend features Night of the Demon (sold out), Dracula and The Mummy (Aug 29-Sep 1).

Phew, that enough for you? 🙂 God, I love London. Now get booking!