Russell Grant

Cinema entrepreneur and musician

If you enjoy thought-provoking, offbeat and sometimes just plain wacky cinema, you’ll be a fan of Jo’burg’s Bioscope cinema.

The seats are salvaged from cars, you can take your pizza and wine in with you, and watch anything from kung fu fests to deep documentaries and French classics.

The man to thank is Russell Grant (31), who set up The Bioscope in Maboneng with his business partner Darryl Els in 2010, and since this year Grant has had sole responsibility for it.

“It was a daring project that surprised a lot of people, at a time when the idea of being in town was still a rather foreign concept, as well as the idea of going to a cinema that wasn’t a recognisable mall cinema. We’re proud to have kept the cinema going and relevant for all these years. It’s taken constant attention and constant reinvention,” he says.

One of its attractions is that it screens movies too small to make it onto the usual movie circuit, giving local filmmakers a chance to have their work screened. That allows audiences to see more provocative or important work than that provided by mainstream cinemas.

“We try to always focus on local cinema. We have had success with a number of films that would never have seen a nationwide release. So we have been able to help grow an audience for local cinema,” he says.

Grant also works with embassies to expose viewers to other cultures through films, with events co-hosted by the Indian, Portuguese, Colombian, Danish, German and French Embassies.

“It’s really been about giving Jo’burg something different, fun and interesting. We have hosted a number of unique shows and concepts, including some really interesting outdoor cinema screenings across the city.”

When he’s not at the movies Grant is the bass player for the pop/rock band Shortstraw, which has an album on iTunes. They have travelled to Australia and Japan and will soon tour Europe. “We’re proud to now be representing South Africa on a more global stage,” Grant says. “We’re also the proud host of an event called Boosh, where we host up-and-coming acts.

“We are also responsible for putting on Mandelapalooza, a soon-to-be-annual Mandela Day event where we raise money for Cotlands and the Yenzani Children’s home. We did it last year, and it was a real hit, so we’ll do it again.” — Lesley Stones

Twitter: @bioscopetonight