A Wall is a Screen: Leith
- David Pollock
- 14 August 2018
credit. Ryan McGoverne
A meditation upon the city at night
Now in their fifteenth year, Hamburg-based short film programmers A Wall is a Screen have devised a film festival with a difference; one where the cinema doesn't have four walls, but is instead the buildings and spaces of the local neighbourhood. With a portable, specially-designed arrangement of projector and speakers, the high-vis-wearing team leading the event walk the streets, taking us through alleys and underpasses, before setting up once more in a square and projecting the next film upon the side of a building.
Having screened (or perhaps 'walled', to be precise) in cities as disparate as Zurich, Austin and Hyderabad, this was A Wall is a Screen's first visit to Scotland; rather confusingly as part of the Festival 2018 cultural programme (Glasgow 2018's diving event is being held at the Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh), but with the collaboration of local arts organisation LeithLate. With around 550 people gathered amid the Newkirkgate Shopping Centre at the foot of Leith Walk, it felt like we were seeing art in the community as it really should be; thoughtful and interesting, but also non-exclusive, entertaining and rooted in its surroundings.
At the Kirkgate we saw two films, including Sandy Ross' 1972 documentary 'Edinburgh's Housing Conditions'; at Cables Wynd House – aka the 'Banana Flats' - we saw Scott Calonico's 'The Banana Republic', an amusing and insightful look at his attempt to find the flat he lived in as a child in this landmark and now-listed public housing block; and at Linksview House, with the lights of the homes on this vaulting housing block creating a striking backdrop, John Smith's 'Blight' presented a sad but mesmerising image of housing being demolished for redevelopment, with the looping words of the former residents in voiceover.
From the foot of the Walk to the Shore, there were eight films in total, lasting a little over two hours including some introductions by the local filmmakers. The event wasn't just a film screening, but a meditation upon our city at night, an environment which most people are never around to see, and an exercise in connecting all involved with their neighbourhood and their neighbours. With familiar concerns once more raised that the Edinburgh Festival isn't entirely representative of the people of Edinburgh (although many might be surprised, were they to look in the right places), this unique show was for everyone.
Seen at Newkirkgate Shopping Centre, Edinburgh, Sat 11 Aug. Run ended.