So Kasey and I had called it an exhausted day - having spent the late afternoon viewing archival film footage at the Mediatheque at the Southbank Centre - and were anxiously navigating our way to an under-used exit, looking forward to getting home for some much-needed R&R.
Earlier, as we'd gone inside, I'd seen the red carpet... the crowd of people... the broad-shouldered men in dark suits monitoring the velvet ropes... the cameras and the peppering of women in ballgowns.
"Hmmm...?" I thought, "I wonder what's going on?"
Hours later, Kasey and I were turning this way and that in our attempt to get out of the Southbank complex, fantasizing about the soup we were planning to prepare on this drizzly day - when suddenly, we unmindfully passed some threshold and had the distinct feeling that we had stumbled into *something.* Waiters were carrying trays of canapes and bending to offer us some... arty folks were huddled together... a blonde girl in a strappy gown was talking about "finishing my first film in London."
I looked at Kasey. Kasey looked at me. Without saying a word, we knew the sentiment was mutual: "I have no idea what this is about, but let's stay awhile..."
Feeling sheepish in our winter gear, we quickly located the makeshift coat check manned by slinky girls, and then shed and handed over as many of our layers as we possibly could. We found some hors d´oeuvres (to save us from fainting) and some sparkling water and then stood trying to look as if we belonged. It was definitely a film party of some sort... everyone was talking about film... we tried our utmost best to be social without giving away the fact that, oh, "we so don't belong here, and in fact, we don't even have the faintest clue what is going on..." (Spy skills of the secret agent variety I tell you!)
Before we knew it, the crowd started to dissipate; people were all being herded into another room.
Again, Kasey and I looked at each other, shrugged, and followed. As it became obvious that we were all funneling into a theatre, we held our breathe that nobody was going to ask us for our ticket - our seat assignment. But no, we were in luck... except for a prominently marked VIP section... it was every party attendee for themselves... Whew...
We sat down and Kasey struck up a conversation with the posh British gentleman next to her. He lent her his program and we learned that we were to see a Turkish film called My Marlon and My Brando. Before the film started, as the announcer, and then the director of the film stood to speak, we discovered that we were at the opening night gala for London's 14th annual Turkish Film Festival... and we were about to see the festival's feature selection.
So we settled in and watched a rather unreal tale (although it was actually based on a true story) of a girl from Istanbul who falls in love with a Kurd from Northern Iraq prior to the Gulf War. When the war begins, she goes on a quest to find him... taking her to the border of Iraq and then Iran. The scenery was fantastic... the sense of these rather foreign peoples' humanity was very palpable and real - but the execution of the overarching plot was a little too over-the-top passionate to really be bought. Oh well. No complaints considering that we'd seen it in the context of such an interesting and unexpected night.
We stayed a bit for the party that followed the film before deciding that we should go since we didn't want to miss the last tube home... after all, unlike some of the legitimate and bedecked attendees, no car and driver was waiting for us to walk back down the red carpet in order to chauffeur us home.