Front facade of Genesis Cinema, featuring the word "GENESIS" written in block letters.

Independent east London cinema to screen new Ken Loach film in inclusive festival

An independent cinema in Tower Hamlets is set to screen the latest film from award-winning British filmmaker Ken Loach, as part of its festival to celebrate marginalised communities.

Fragments Film Festival, hosted by Genesis Cinema, in Bethnal Green, will open with a screening of Loach’s The Old Oak, which tells the story of solidarity formed between a group of Syrian refugees and a pub-owner in a former mining town in County Durham, northeast England. 

Loach, known for his films which focus on working-class communities, has been a long standing supporter of the cinema for over 10 years, regularly hosting Q&As on his previous and upcoming works.

Wema Mumma, events manager at Genesis Cinema, said: “Obviously, representation is a very important issue for a lot of communities. You don’t always see yourself on screen. 

“Oftentimes, even if you do, you’re not prioritised, or you’re portrayed inaccurately and are stereotyped. What Fragments aims to do is to move away from that.

“We are essentially creating spaces for communities that might not be there elsewhere.” 

The festival opening will be attended by Dave Turner, the lead actor in The Old Oak and a former firefighter, who, like the character he portrays, has lived in County Durham and worked in a local village pub himself. 

This year’s lineup includes a total of eight feature films, 26 shorts, and several speaker events and workshops collaboration with groups such as Queer East and Story Compound, a Black and female-owned production and film company. 

Around 200 people are expected to attend the cinema on the festival’s opening night. 

A Black History Month launch, Manhood through the Generations: A Black Experience, is being presented by Tower Hamlets council, Fragments Festival and film creator Prism of Black.

Free tickets for the launch, on October 1, have been allocated to Tower Hamlets residents.

This year’s festival, driven by the theme, “celebrating inclusivity through film,” received around 196 submissions from across the globe. 

Wema (left) and Alessandra (right) stand beside each other, smiling for the camera.

Wema Mumma (left) and Alessandra Fraissinet (right) smile and pose for the camera.

Mumma said: “A lot of the submissions we received were from first-time filmmakers and people just trying to break into the industry.

“We wanted the people selecting these films to be the people who are also represented onscreen.

“We also wanted to give the opportunity to people from traditionally under-represented backgrounds to programme, to host, to write copy, and to get involved in whatever ways they can.”

The lineup features multiple foreign-language films screened with English subtitles, including Japanese director Mika Imai’s Ginger and Honey Milk, whose main protagonist navigates the struggles of being both deaf and non-binary.

The festival’s Shorts Programmes will also include short films from Kenya, Pakistan, Mexico, Ukraine, and elsewhere across Europe – centred around themes of disability, displacement, and distinctive portrayals of love and community found within times of turmoil. 

Fragments began as an in-house festival by Genesis in 2019 to celebrate independent and otherwise often overlooked films. 

In the festival’s 2023 programme, festival director and cinema-owner, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, said: “With the world increasingly opening up to diversity, it’s more important than ever to expose people to as many perspectives as possible and I believe film is still one of the best ways to do this.”

The cinema, which first opened its doors in 1848, began as an open space for Music Hall entertainments, has undergone several refurbishments since. 

Genesis, as it is known today, officially re-opened as an independent, family-run business in 1999, and has previously hosted the annual East London Film Festival until it discontinued in 2020, due to Covid.

Fragments Film Festival will run from 28 September – 1 October. More information is available here.

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