London has secrets too… Part 2

Continued from London has secrets too… Part 1

In the previous post in this series I briefly spoke about my Secret Cinema experience but as the current event was in progress I didn´t want to be a spoiler and let the cat out of the bag with regards to the movie that the organization was screening. Now that the event has ended I can reveal the movie which was the focus of the screening: Battle for Algiers.

The lead up to the event was killing me as I do not deal well with surprises. I was constantly trying to guess the movie which would be screen but to no avail… All I had to go on, were the identity documents which were sent to us via email, the location of the event and dress-code which did not help too much when it came discovering the movie.

The identity card

Only on the day, Umer, had some insider info and told me the setting was North Africa. Brilliant! I just came from North Africa… I did find the movie choice interesting considering the events in North Africa. Anyway, Raquel, Umer and I (with some friends of Umer) met at Waterloo and made our way towards the tunnels beneath waterloo station…

The entrance to the tunnel was surrounded by barbed wire and there actors outside wearing military fatigues checking our Identity documents and only speaking French. The experience had started.

Raquel and I all dressed up

We walked through the tunnel to the sets, the first being the Casbah, the Arab quarter of Algiers: An amazing array of North African urban architecture (cramped corridor alley ways), mosques, markets and cafes filled with actors dressed in Arab garb, women in abayas etc. There was even an Arab musician playing the oud. Then a more barbed wire fences and a checkpoint to go to the European quarter of Algiers.

Continental cafe’s, discos, a cinema and even an Air France office. The attention to detail with the sets were impressive especially after watching the movie. The actors would around the sets, playing their part and enacting scenes from the movie and interacting with the ‘audience’. For example, Umer went round delivering messages as part of the resistance.

The sets from the movie

The whole experience was something surreal, you felt like you were a prop in a movie. After a couple of hours of being part of the set and movie, the audience made their way to the cinema where they screened the movie. Here is a quick synopsis on the movie from the IMDb database:

A film commissioned by the Algerian government that shows the Algerian revolution from both sides. The French foreign legion has left Vietnam in defeat and has something to prove. The Algerians are seeking independence. The two clash. The torture used by the French is contrasted with the Algerian’s use of bombs in soda shops. A look at war as a nasty thing that harms and sullies everyone who participates in it.

The movie was very good and considering the goings on in the Arab world, very relevant. However the experience as a whole was simply out of this world from the sets to the actors who never once forgot that they were acting.

I highly recommend this experience to any in London or anyone visiting. Worth every penny. See the video of the event below.

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