Size matters

It’s not often that blank cinema screens get a round of applause. Wolf whistles, too. But such is the sexiness of the big Benson & Hedges canvas at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, that spontaneous emissions during its nightly erection are a common thing.
When it comes to the annual B&H Open Air Film Festival, everybody is a size queen.

Especially when we’re talking seven storeys high. That’s how large the screen gets, once hoisted via a pulley system to its full height - which happens every evening just as the show is about to begin. A 2000-seater amphitheatre with surround sound speakers ensures the scale of the project keeps proportions impressive. And a suitably snazzy setting - mountain behind, bay in front, bars fully stocked - contributes to the slightly decadent pleasure of being able to drink plonk, puff on ciggies and sniff the sea while perving Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element.

It’s actually about fun more than film - like going to the drive-in flieks of yore, where snogging or sweets (depending on one’s age) were the primary attractions. And this light-hearted approach is reflected in the choice of titles. Apart from the slightly heavy premiere of The Hurricane which opened the programme, and a few so-called arty offerings to justify the “festival” tag, one supposes, (Elizabeth, Hamlet), the bulk of the season consists of hoary old faves like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, loud action movies (End of Days), a coupla trendy inserts (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, The Blair Witch Project) and wimpy romantic stuff (Notting Hill). Nothing too serious.

Which is a relief, really. Who wants to get all thinky when you’ve got a glass in one hand, a babe in the other and the stars above? The travelling festival, which has already pulled over 50 000 punters in Durban and Jo’burg, is al fresco popular entertainment with minimal pretensions in a major comfort zone with maximum thrill power.

Can you imagine a better setting to watch Titanic than with real waves as the soundtrack? You could even chuck ice cubes at each other for added authenticity.

For the next three weeks, big is definitely better ...

The Benson & Hedges Open Air Film Festival runs until March 29 at the Portnet Building, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town. Book through Computicket. More details here

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