While we may not currently be able to support local cinemas in person, we can keep the spirit of film alive during lockdown by joining a virtual online film club. Not only are they the perfect way to enjoy quality screen time from the comfort of your sofa, you can also dive into director Q&As, cast interviews and lively discussions. Here are the best online film clubs to sign up to this winter.
Le Cinéma Club – founded by Marie-Lousie Khondji in 2015 – and backed by Chanel, has built up a cult audience, who tune into the uniquely-curated platform for its free film drop every Friday. Billing itself as a “rendezvous for movie lovers and filmmakers around the world”, the choice is always dynamic and unexpected; though the spectrum of genres is broad (currently showing is The Sitter, Fred Walton’s 70s new wave horror), the emphasis here is on short formats from an impressive roster of British talent. Works from up-and-coming filmmakers are showcased alongside the classics, and there are interesting interviews and image galleries, too.
Birds’ Eye View – a non-profit initiative that platforms female perspectives in film and campaigns for gender equality across cinema – is in its 17th year and still going strong. As well as screening a wealth of female-led films at any one time – bookmark biopic Shirley, loosely based around novelist Shirley Jackson’s life – the charitable organisation puts on free virtual events, including expert panels and Q&As with directors and filmmakers, in addition to its annual festival. Don’t forget to check out their Reclaim The Frame campaign; backed by the British Film Institute, this brilliant initiative aims to support women working in film through advocacy, investment, mentoring and events.
Asynchronous Film Club has devised a list of films for each week throughout November, the theme of which are “films from female directors which probably suffered in some fashion due to lockdown, are fun, and not depressing”. The selection includes Rocks, Misbehaviour, A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood and How To Build A Girl, which is based on Caitlin Moran’s critically-acclaimed novel. There aren’t any scheduled viewing times: you are encouraged to watch the film at your leisure and then analyse and discuss it on social media with the club’s founder, Mac Chapman, afterwards.
Everyman Cinema is running a view-along on Saturday evenings to keep the love for cinema alive. They announce the weekly choice on Friday (the brief is definitely uplifting – previous movies have included Olivia Wilde’s witty debut Booksmart and The Florida Project – an American slice-of-life dark comedy, starring Willem Defoe and Valeria Cotto), you stream the film and afterwards viewers are encouraged to share photos, reactions and views on social media using #EverymanHouseParty. Expect celebrity guests – Richard Curtis introduced 500 Days of Summer – and recipe suggestions for a perfect movie night menu (think halloumi burgers, Espresso Martinis and Oreo milkshakes).
BFI Southbank and BFI IMAX may currently be closed, but BFI at Home not only offers thousands of films from the BFI archive, it also has a thoughtfully put together programme of contemporary and classic cinema on BFI Player, as well as a number of free online events to get you through lockdown. The shorts and features you can watch gratis is gratifyingly eclectic, from Mark Kermode’s popular film discussion show to Black Eyes, Black Lives, curated by S.O.U.L Celebrate Connect founder Iyare Igiehon. Online discussions and events have recently included Creating Cittagazze, a behind-the-scenes look at the BBC’s new drama His Dark Materials, and also Ben Wheatley, director of the recently-released Rebecca, in conversion with filmmaker Charlotte Regan.
This communal film club’s mission is simple: to provide entertaining midweek movies that are accessible to everyone. And with a name – See You Next Wednesday – that references the recurring gag in most of director John Landis’s repertoire, you know that the film choice will always be good. All you need do is check their website, social media platform or WhatsApp group (you can join this by contacting them) to see what the next title is, track down a copy – SYNW offers streaming or renting options – and then press play on the dot of 8.30pm on Wednesday (there’s a countdown online to synchronise this). Earlier in the evening, you can also chat with the group and watch trailers for other ‘Coming Distractions’ before settling down for the main event.
The Riverside Studios online Film Club is a must for movie buffs. Each week they select a film you can watch for free from the comfort of your own living room – from timeless classics to art house and foreign films. Then, on Monday evening at 6pm, you’re invited into the “Zoom room” for post-film discussions (you have to register to take part). The choice of films is always interesting – most recently it was Oscar contender Wadjda from Saudi Arabia’s first female director.