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Eleven nights of open air movie magic
IF you hate watching movies in dark cold cinemas and would rather enjoy a balmy Singapore evening with a glass of wine and your closest friends while still calling yourself a movie buff, you're in luck.
Films at the Fort presented by Casillero del Diablo is back this August with its fourth edition, and it'll be showing award-winning movies for 11 nights this year, having started off in 2013 with just four.
Ben Williams, organiser and director at Groundswell Events, says: "When we first launched, people in Singapore weren't familiar with the outdoor cinema experience. There were other smaller events for 30 to 50 people, but nothing on a scale like this."
The first edition of the film programme saw 5,000 people, while last year's saw 11,000. Mr Williams expects attendance figures to number 12,000 to 15,000 this August.
He says: "We could see a demand for something like this through dedicated market research, and that's been proven now by the fact that our programme has almost, or actually, sold out each year that we've hosted it."
The appeal of the event can be credited to the ambience it creates, he says. "Each film begins when it gets dark outside, but unlike a normal cinema setting where people stroll in just before the movie starts, we encourage them to arrive early."
He adds: "It's not just about the movie we're screening, but also about the gourmet food and drinks. Some of our guests enjoy having a picnic on the grounds, so it becomes a much more social experience."
Some of the food and beverage offerings include a grass-fed beef burger (S$18.50), cheese platter to share (S$24.50), and homemade Valrhona chocolate brownies (S$4.50). For cinema purists, gourmet popcorn will be available in truffle and parmesan, and vanilla caramel flavours (S$5).
But, of course, the 11 films being showcased have been carefully curated too. They include the biographical The Man Who Knew Infinity (winner of the grand jury documentary prize at Sundance Film Festival), The Wolfpack, and French movie Mon Roi.
Mr Williams says: "Since our first year, we've screened a combination of new releases, documentaries, classics and cult classics. It's a difficult process because even if each film is excellent when considered individually, they may not make a well-balanced programme when combined. So if they don't complement each other, they won't make the cut.
"We keep tabs on major film festivals' submissions and winners and are continually speaking to critics and film agencies throughout the year."
His curation process involves watching around 200 films, not that he or anyone would complain. He laughs: "I don't always get through the entire film though!"
The structure of the event and the movies themselves are suited to adults, with the majority of them being rated NC-16 or higher so "the films select the audience, so to speak". As such, the majority of the audience at Films at the Fort are aged between 24 and 45 years old.
Organising an event on such a large scale takes about a year, and while the challenges can involve anything from obtaining a plethora of licences required or making sure each moving part is in place by the festival's start date, the real nemesis of all open-air cinema experiences remains the same - rain.
"The only thing you can do about that is prepare," says Mr Williams. "If the weather's posing a risk to our audience, we have to cancel that day's screening. To forestall that, we hold the event in August every year because it's one of the driest months of the year. And if it rains, it usually happens in the morning."
The most obvious change every year is the list of titles screened, but the one thing that'll never change is the location at Fort Canning Park.
He explains: "It's a reasonably well-known venue that is easy to get to, and it's Singapore's premier outdoor concert arena. A lot of bigger names are now going to the indoor stadium and venues with a bigger capacity, but they don't have the same soul as Fort Canning. More than that, the naturally sloping amphitheatre makes it absolutely perfect for this."
- Films at the Fort presented by Casillero del Diablo is on at Fort Canning Park from Aug 11 to 21. Tickets start at S$29.75. To purchase these, or for more information, please visit www.filmsatthefort.com.sg