Rosebank Cinema Nouveau: The Lodestar in Johannesburg’s Cultural Imagination

Review by Lumkile Nkomfe

As far as art cinema goes, there is none to meet the like of the Rosebank Cinema Nouveau. Nestled in the culturally eclectic suburb of Rosebank, Cinema Nouveau has cemented its place as a paragon of cinematic splendor. Given the economic challenges that film theaters encounter it is now more than ever imperative that we continue to support them. They offer moments of pleasure, joy, pain, and ecstasy but moreover the cinema experience etches its mark onto our lives forever. 

A sense of supreme delight reverberates through me when recollecting all the occasions I have had the pleasure of entering this familiar boutique cinema. One still cannot get tired of viewing incredible films and leaving inspired as this represents to me the awe-inspiring magic of cinema. From films such as Call Me By Your Name, The Darkest Hour, Inxeba: The Wound, and Dunkirk to films such as Good Time, Roma, An Act of Defiance and Promising Young Woman, the sheer shared beauty with fellow cinemagoers can only be indicative of the unparalleled cinematic quality and excellence. It never ceases to arouse a feeling of immense gratification. 

Rosebank and Cinema Nouveau represent the perfect marriage of style and substance. Together they characterize a part of Johannesburg which is open-minded, achingly diverse, and cultured. It is a place that represents unity within the arts, as at any given moment you can spend time enjoying good food and drinks at a great, renowned restaurant or visit an interesting, well-established art gallery. As a city Johannesburg is often characterized as bustling, industrious to the core, a perplexing maze and ultimately a crucible, one which people from all over South Africa, the wider continent and the rest of the world migrate to. This influences the plethora of great narratives which are shared and expressed within the arts. It fills me with great pride knowing that I live my everyday life in this city, so rich in history as the backdrop. Therefore, visiting this cinema and watching a film in such esteemed settings should be a desirable option for any person, especially one that calls Johannesburg their home.

Rosebank’s Cinema Nouveau offers a wide variety of experiences such as theater performances, live concerts and film school exhibitions. These are all facets of the arts which should become embedded in all people as they offer the opportunity to understand and familiarize with creative material and diverse narratives, fostering a deep appreciation and acknowledgement of the educational value of film, music, and theater. This will assist in safeguarding the development and preservation of the arts. Under the new Covid-19 conditions the practical machinations of operating a movie theater such as this one is perilous to say the least and the people who regularly make it work get on thanklessly. Rosebank Cinema Nouveau receives a vast amount of patrons in the months between February and April as many of the Academy Award nominated films are on screen. In my experience, this has been the time where the corridors outside of the cinemas are at their most vibrant as the excitement to view highly rated films during the proverbial ‘awards season’ cannot be contained. It is definitely a riveting experience to watch some of the best cinema with highly appreciative and discerning people and that is part of the appeal: the acquisition of something valuable, immaterial to some but a meaningful and quietly tasteful pursuit to many. The importance of cinema in today’s age cannot be undersold. Given the social ills and the pandemic that we all continue to grapple with, the need for cinema becomes that much more important as it reinvigorates our hope in humanity. Therefore, it is definitely something that can bring people together as film is also important on an emotional and spiritual level, with the ability to evoke a plethora of feelings in people. The time is ripe for all of us to think of ways to preserve the richness of the arts, particularly film, because without it our lives would be much less colourful.

Facebook: Lumkile Nkomfe