It’s an exciting week for cinema in both Greenwich and Lewisham. In the former borough, a new six-screen Vue cinema opens on the high street on Thursday 25, writes Holly O’Mahony…

While in Lewisham, the eighth annual New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival kicks off on Friday 26 and runs until Sunday May 5. The festival sees multi-purpose venues across both neighbourhoods transformed into pop-up cinemas in which free film screenings are hosted.

The Free Film Festival is one of several of its kind, most of which are held in neighbourhoods across south London. The festivals – the first of which took place in Peckham and Nunhead in 2010 – are run by a community of volunteers who are passionate about bringing people together to enjoy films they might not have seen elsewhere. Each festival is run by its own group of volunteers, but equipment, such as projectors, are shared between the festivals.

Among the 35 films being shown at the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival this year is Spike Lee’s 2018 film BlacKkKlansman (April 26 at Brick Brewery, 7:30pm). The biographical comedy-drama, set in 70s America, tells the true story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), an African American police officer from Colorado Springs and the first black cop in his precinct, who successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan branch with the help of his Jewish cop partner (Adam Driver). Also showing in the first week of the festival is Pixar Animation Studio’s 2015 movie Inside Out (April 27 at Bear Church, 2pm). Set in the mind of a young girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), the film follows her personified emotions as they try to make sense of her rapidly changing environment.

Another animated film showing at the festival is Nora Twomey’s critically-acclaimed 2017 film The Breadwinner (April 29 at Deptford Lounge, 7pm). Set in 2001, the story follows Parvana, an 11-year-old girl who lives under Taliban rule in Afghanistan and must dress like a boy, and work, to support her family. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards and has an impressive 95 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The second week of the festival continues with recent successes including Greta Gerwig’s 2018 film Ladybird (May 1 at Deptford Lounge, 7pm); firm favourites such as Sean Penn’s 2007 movie Into the Wild (April 30 at Sanford Housing Co-op, 7:30pm); and classics including Ridley Scott 1991 revenge flick Thelma and Louise (May 3 at Deptford Lounge, 3pm).

In Eltham, meanwhile, a new six-screen Vue cinema and Nando’s restaurant opens on Eltham High Street on Thursday 25. The launch, organised by the council, is being attended by local school children, who are dressing up as their favourite film characters.

“The plans for the cinema were given the go-ahead in September 2015, when we purchased the site from Poundland,” says David Hall, Assistant Communications and Social Media Officer for the Royal Borough of Greenwich. “We then signed the contract with Vue in August 2016 and the main works started in February 2018,” he says.

Eltham High Street recently underwent a major £6.6m improvement scheme, primarily funded by Transport for London, in a bid to renovate the public spaces and boost the long term vitality of the high street.

“The completion of the cinema is a central part of our ambitious regeneration of Eltham High Street, making it an entertainment destination for local people and increasing the number of visitors to the area,” David explains. “This, in turn, will help reinvigorate other businesses in the area.”

New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival runs from April 26 – May 5 in various locations. Visit www.freefilmfestivals.org/ for more information. Vue Cinema Eltham, 174 Eltham High Street, Eltham, London SE9 1BJ opens April 25. www.myvue.com/