Rooftop Cinema returns
Perth's Rooftop Cinema

In its debut season last summer, Rooftop Movies found a niche in the market. It was not only Perth's newest outdoor cinema but our first to be perched seven stories up and overlooking Perth's skyline.

Such was its success last year, when almost every night was sold out, the Northbridge rooftop cinema, on the top floor of the Roe Street carpark, reopened last night for a longer season and a vastly different program.

"We don't want to repeat anything," says Artrage chief executive Marcus Canning, who oversees Rooftop Movies. "Last year was a real trial year for us. It was a mix of trawling through the vaults and pulling out gems, pop-schmaltz classics and films from people's childhoods.

"This year we have a six-month season and that gives us a lot of scope to do a lot of different things. This year it's all single-night screenings (no double features) and some special events with concerts, stand-up comedy and DJs before and after screenings. We will also release the program month-by-month, to stay as fresh and unpredictable as possible."

The first month's program also features three mini-festivals. A week of horror movies to celebrate Halloween includes the Revamped Vampire Ball and a screening of John Carpenter's seminal slasher flick Halloween on October 31. There is also a week of films based on architecture to celebrate Open House on November 3-4, when the public is invited into Perth's landmark buildings.

And in the lead-up to the annual Pride Parade, Rooftop will screen the PrideFest FilmFest, which will include rare screenings of Gus Van Sant's first film Mala Noche and the Robert Mapplethorpe documentary Black, White + Gray. Perhaps the most fascinating of all, however, is the acclaimed hour- long Australian documentary Orchids: My Intersex Adventure, where young Queensland filmmaker Phoebe Hart turns the camera on herself to face the truth and bust the myths about her rare condition.

"I have androgen insensitivity syndrome, which means I am a woman with 46 XY (male) chromosomes," she says. "Medically speaking, that makes me a hermaphrodite, even though I am a heterosexual woman with a husband and an adopted baby girl.

"In my early life, my condition was kept a secret from me," she explains. "I was confused and told to keep quiet about who and what I was. I was subjected to medical scrutiny, surgery and pathology.

"I wanted to find others willing to talk about their condition too. So my sister Bonnie - who doubles as my cameraperson - and I went on the road around Australia to find all these amazing people who were willing to share their personal experiences."

Hart, who has a doctorate in film, avoids any gratuitous or confronting scenes in favour of a touching personal journey of discovery that's handled delicately and tastefully. "Orchids has allowed me to reflect on the shame and trauma of my coming-of-age experience, often with humour, and examine why 'coming out' continues to be extremely challenging," she says.

While Orchids is a highlight of Rooftop's first month, the cinema has faced some big challenges of its own.

Leaving the program until the last minute has led to frustration for workers, marketers and publicists.

A new digital projector had to be bought to comply with screening rules of new-release films, which meant a re-arrangement of the first program in lieu of the projector arriving next month.

Still, the relaxed Mr Canning refuses to be deflated by distractions.

"It's all systems go for us, and it's going to be a great season," he says.

The West Australian

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