Back in the 1980s, the Scala Cinema in King’s Cross was a London landmark: a gloriously grotty fleapit screening the best in underground cinema to audiences of film lovers and students. They were so punk-rock, they even showed ‘A Clockwork Orange’ back when Stanley Kubrick had personally banned it from British cinemas (a stunt which backfired when a lawsuit forced the cinema to close).
Fast-forward to 2011, and the Scala Forever tribute festival arrives to rekindle the Scala spirit with DIY film shows in pubs, clubs and galleries across London. This year, it’s bigger than ever, retitled Scalarama, and ballooning to cover the whole of the UK with a programme that spans everything from established classics to underground oddities, from VHS found footage to digital experimenta.
As ever, the focus is on a core programme of fascinating rediscoveries. This year these include a selection of films by pioneering documentary-maker Shirley Clarke and a timely new print of berserk, indescribable animal-exploitation-drama-doc-reality-show oddity ‘Roar’ (1981).
But it’s further down the list where things get interesting, with a huge array of tiny screenings to suit every taste. With many still to be confirmed, our eye was caught by folk oddity ‘Penda’s Fen’ (1974) at Whitechapel Gallery, nutty Italian horror flick ‘Nightmare City’ (1980) at the Prince Charles and a trio of Cannon Films double bills, including the mighty ‘Runaway Train’ (1985), showing courtesy of The Badlands Collective at a variety of cinemas. But this is just the tip of a very large and wayward cinematic iceberg.
Scalarama runs September 1-30 in venues across the city. Go to scalarama.com to see the full programme and book tickets.