Brixton Community Cinema showcases a range of films from all over the globe at accessible prices
We chat to Abiba Coulibaly after the cinema’s first screening about discovering unexpected obstacles, overcoming them and finding fellow cinephiles. Oh, and we get a sneak peek at the upcoming programme!
The Extra Nice Fund is a core part of Extra Nice, an offering from It’s Nice That designed to support creativity in you and in the wider creative community. A portion of Supporters’ fees are contributed to the fund, with the pot awarded to one impactful creative project each year. This year we awarded the fund to Abiba Coulibaly, the founder of Brixton Community Cinema and a full-time programmer at the BFI. Read on to learn more about the project or, to find out more about Extra Nice and the Extra Nice Fund, click here.
Going to the cinema appears to be getting more expensive by the day. With a single ticket in central London reaching prices close to £20, and ones in outer boroughs averaging around £10-£15, it’s not just a cost that raises many an eyebrow, but a completely inaccessible one too. It’s this unaffordability that Abiba Coulibaly’s initiative, Brixton Community Cinema, hopes to counter, with its salary-dependent “donate-what-you-can” approach. From its current home in Brixton Village Market, the cinema puts community first, creating a welcoming space in which anyone is invited and popcorn is provided. Moreover, curating a programme that traverses the cinematic wonders of the globe, the initiative also dedicates itself to platforming some of the most impressive, socio-politically driven cinema of past and present.
While Abiba’s initiative may now be a well-oiled cinematic machine, getting there wasn’t so simple, with a number of unforeseen obstacles along the way. “Securing a venue was especially tricky, as a lot of the vacant spaces I had my eye on, such as railway arches, have become privatised,” Abiba says. “But eventually with the help of Make It In Brixton, Brixton Village were kind enough to lend me an empty retail unit.” Throughout the early stages, Abiba also received support from numerous others, lending equipment and spreading the word – support she says she couldn’t have completed the project without. She highlights the impressive design work by Jackson Deans and Aarushi Matiyani, who created a logo and visual identity for the cinema: a white typeface, glowing atop green, orange and yellows hues – the visual similarity to a film processing light-bleed is cleverly in keeping with cinematic themes.
The cinema recently saw its successful opening night. Beginning with an intro from Abiba, two short documentary films were shown: Nubia Way by Timi Akindele-Ajani, about a Black-led self-build housing project in Lewisham; and An English Garden by Will Jennings, set in Lambeth. Abiba explains that while the future selections will come from all over the world, she wanted to begin with “something that was rooted in local stories”. When programming the event, Abiba explains that by coincidence she discovered she knew one of Nubia Way’s producers, a blessing that only enhanced its suitability, as distribution rights were made much easier. The films were then followed by a panel discussion, with three guest speakers who work across the arts and built environments: Alpa Depani, Kareem Dayes, Nana Biamah-Ofosu and chaired by writer and architectural designer Alistair Napier.
Since we last caught up with Abiba, she has begun working full-time as a film programmer at the BFI, a role which she says “continues to teach me countless useful lessons for running the cinema”, though, she adds, “balancing the two is not always easy!” And Abiba’s ability to curate a list of unique and intriguing independent films certainly shines in BCC’s upcoming schedule. In time for Halloween, the next event this coming Thursday will show The Bloodettes, “a futuristic Cameroonian political thriller about the (mis)adventures of two sex workers frequented by political elites”. November will see Jafar Panahi’s Offside – which raises awareness of the human-rights violations behind the upcoming World Cup in Qatar and the plight of women and political dissidents in Iran. Then, in December, Abiba will be screening a “personal favourite” – the Senegalese short film The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun.
Reflecting on the project, Abiba primarily hopes that the cinema exists as a place where anyone is welcome: “I hope it provides a place where people don’t feel excluded – where price isn’t a barrier to entry and that people can pop in midway by chance if they happen to be walking through the market.” And, of course, she wants it to reinvigorate the audience’s thirst for brilliant filmmaking and the lessons they hold. “I hope people are able to walk away wanting to explore cinema more,” she says, “as well as the issues the films are exploring and reflect on how they might relate to their own lives, regardless of location or period.”
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.