Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Pop-Up Cinema & The Role Of Japanese Beer

By Alistair Martin

It may be a cliché now, but Shoreditch really is awash with abandoned, formerly industrial, sites ripe for rejuvenation into super-cool bars and pop-ups. Consequently, just when I think I’ve visited them all, I follow an invitation into a seemingly dead estate and find myself in another.

Most recently, the invitation was to a press launch for the Kirin ‘First Cut’ Short Film Competition in an old warehouse off Bishopsgate. Following the usual search for a seemingly non-existent address, I eventually found the right door, which led me out of the brisk London evening and into an impressively authentic-looking Japanese marketplace.

The Kirin PR people had given us some fake ¥1000 bills to spend in the market – a cute gimmick, even if the amount they gave us didn’t go far. Although calligraphy, palm-reading and other traditional Japanese pastimes were available, all my Yen went on sushi, for which I have a particular weakness. Fortunately the Kirin beers were free – as any good PR person knows, the cheapest way to a good write-up is to get your journalists pissed.

Of course, the event was not just a philanthropic campaign against the sobriety of journalists – it was also designed as a launch for the Kirin-sponsored ‘First Cut’ short film competition. As such, a makeshift cinema had been set up on site in which a selection of short films was intermittently showcased over the rustle of wasabi popcorn packets and clinking beer bottles.

Short film-making is a very different art-form to the manufacture of feature-length movies, with the truncated running time providing less scope for plot development, but greater focus on the artistry through which a few choice ideas can be delivered. As with feature films, the standard of short films can vary greatly, so it was with relief that the three films I saw that night were of a consistently impressive standard.

Coming from around the world, the subject matter varied from the logistics of checking out a hot woman in a crowded noodle bar, to the creation of a hamster-sized Bruce Willis avatar with which to play desk-top role play games. Perhaps the most engaging, and certainly the most touching film involved a couple of Portuguese parents setting up their first computer in order to Skype their son, who was away at an American university. It doesn’t sound like much, but it packed a lot of humour and emotion into its brief five minutes, and should certainly be looked out for when the winning entries are shown at the Kirin pop-up restaurant in East London in August.

Supposedly, the theme of the film competition is ‘first press’, to tie in with the ‘unique first press process’ that gives Kirin such a clean taste…or so read the press release. Regardless of such marketing talk, I welcome Kirin’s endeavour and look forward to their pop-up restaurant this summer, for two reasons.

Firstly, it’s a pretty damn good beer – one of those beers like San Miguel or Quilmes where, if you see it on tap amid the usual array of Fosters, Carling and other such piss, you make sure you get yourself a pint. I am therefore looking forward to there being another venue where you can get what is otherwise a bizarrely unavailable lager.

Secondly, at a time when (rightly or wrongly) the arts in this country are receiving huge cuts in funding from government, we need companies like Kirin do their bit to maintain the cultural diversity of London. Surely it doesn’t matter whether it is all a marketing exercise for them or not – a high-quality short film festival is a high-quality short film festival, and should be welcomed. So campai to Kirin for their cultural contribution – I for one look forward to their return to East London this summer with the four competition finalists. Here’s to more companies doing the same.

Looking for a bar to watch movies in? Then check out the Top 10 Best London Bars & Restaurants for Watching Movies.

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