Everything about Underground Cinema is a surprise. The film is secret. The location is secret. All you know is you’re going to watch a movie, interact with actors, and that you should dress a certain way.
The UGC team are masters at creating experiential events. You’re not there to see a movie — oh no. First you get treated to an experience. My first UGC event involved a skateboarding competition on the roof of the Melbourne Sea Baths (for the film Lords of Dogtown). Then at the December reprise of UGC’s ‘EPIDEMIC’ (for 28 Days Later) the audience ran through abandoned parking lots, avoiding the screams of those who were being devoured by zombies. You feel as if you’re part of the film — even if you don’t yet know what it is.
In the leadup to the event, the UGC team gives out hints on what’s going to be shown. For March’s event, ‘PATRIOT’, all of the photos on their Facebook event were black-and-white, featuring American images. Ruki and I were told we needed to dress 1950s. I put two and two together and came up with Good Night, and Good Luck, a film about the McCarthy trials.
The night started in a laneway off Little Collins. We were taken into a room filled with desks and made to fill out a nonsensical form (questions like, ‘Do you have a pet?’ alongside ‘Have you ever been a member of a union?’) while American-accented actors told us to hurry. We were then led into the main building: the Baptist Church on Collins Street, a magnificent venue for the event.
Divided into three groups, we were first indoctrinated (Ruki & I were part of the communist sympathisers). While we were eating and drinking, we were all told to collect information on the other guests and report back. It was the most interactive UGC event — and the most fun I’ve yet had. I got really into staying in character.
Before the film was shown, a tribunal took place. Serious-looking men in suits called three people from the audience up to be interrogated. Watch the video of Melbourne’s two ‘PATRIOT’ events. Keep an eye out for a very familiar face at 2:53:
That’s right, out of the 300 attendees, I was one of the three people chosen that night to be interrogated. It was nerve-wracking! They took it very seriously: I had a counsel sitting beside me who gave me encouragement and told me could plead the fifth. The questions got crazier and crazier. (‘I have see on your form that you have a pet, Ms. Winters.’ ‘I do not.’ ‘Are you saying the the Federal Bureau of Investigation are liars?’ ‘You must have been misinformed.’ ‘We have heard you have a pet hamster… and its name is Stalin!’) I felt like I was whisked back in time to the McCarthy trials — which was the whole point.
Underground Cinema is all about ‘taking cinema out of the cinema’. Their events get better and better each time. I can’t think of a cooler way to spend an afternoon or evening. From anticipation over what the film and location are going to be, to talking to the actors, it’s a delight from start to finish. Grab a +1 (or +4) and make sure to go to their next event.