Pop-Up Cinema Connects Film and Social Justice

by Kayla Blau

South Seattle has a new “traveling” pop-up film cinema that is unlike any other. Purple Reels Pop-Up Cinema is all about bridging intergenerational gaps and providing a space to not only watch movies, but to connect and discuss classic films for social change.

IMG_20190417_195734_719Purpelle Tramble created the pop-up cinema with a mission of “serving the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding through a collective of screenings that foster cultural awareness and promote social change.”

Purpelle is a Seattle-native filmmaker, Howard University alumni, recording artist, and youth advocate. The next Purple Reels Pop-Up Cinema takes place at Cafe Red on May 19 at 3 p.m.

Purpelle learned to love film film through family movie nights growing up. Her family watched mainly films based on true stories and black and white classic films that she especially loved. They would watch Alfred Hitchcock, The Three Stooges, and other classic films from that era. Born to a musically gifted family, Purpelle wanted something of her own and fell in love with film.

“I remember looking up what times the TV movies were coming on as a kid and creating events for my siblings, I made my own tickets and everything,” she said. “I even made snacks!”

“We weren’t allowed to watch rated-R movies and so I made this pact with myself that I would catch up on all the films from the 90s I wasn’t able to see because of it. I’m still catching up!” She said.

Her artist pursuits continued at Howard University, where received a full ride through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, an academic scholarship created by Bill and Melinda Gates that covered her studies at Howard University. She holds a Bachelors in Film Studies from Howard University. She worked at Landmark’s E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C., and has written and directed a number of short films.

After studying at Howard, she was chosen for a “Creative Minds in Cannes” program in France, which exposed her to the global film market and the world of screening and buying films. In 2013, Purple Reels Productions was honored with a leadership award at Women of Color Empowered Luncheon sponsored by NW Asian Weekly. In 2014, her film “The Proposal” was chosen for the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center Film Festival. That same year, Purpelle met Halisi Ali El of “Wizdom Medicine Productions” who currently serves as Event Coordinator for the pop-up cinema.

The pop-up cinema has had monthly events at local community gathering spaces and schools since December of 2018. It is completely self-run, without any organizational support or grants.

“If you believe in something, you’ll invest in it,” Purpelle said.

They do hope to one day have support from a grant to sustain their work. There is currently a call for volunteers, ages 13 and over, to help with the box office, concession stand, media, and ushers. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer and learning more about film, the next volunteer meeting is on May 11 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Douglass-Truth branch of Seattle Public Library.

“Having a brick and mortar space for classic films is the dream, but there’s already a lot of movie theatres in Seattle,” Purpelle said. “I wanted to do it differently, to bring people together through brunch and conversation, and have a family movie night type vibe.”

In a world that is seemingly more divisive than ever, safe community spaces are key to bring people from all walks of life together in conversation and fellowship. Aside from regular monthly events at venues across the city, Purpelle hopes to be able to provide free screenings at senior service centers, homeless shelters, and schools.

The next screening is on May 19 from 3 to 7 p.m. and is titled “Moms and Malcolm.” The event will screen the documentary film “Malcolm X: Make it Plain” and takes place on Malcolm X’s birthday. The event will also feature a pound cake bake-off, and they are still accepting submissions. It will be held at Cafe Red in South Seattle.

“We wanted to honor mothers who have lost their kids to violence, and have a safe space to talk about social justice issues. We chose to do a pound cake bake off because comfort food makes everything better. There are also so many renditions of pound cake which also reflects the diversity of our country,” Purpelle said.

“I want the pop-up cinema to embody my purpose, which I have an acronym for with my name, P-U-R-P-E-L-L-E (Pursue Ur Passion Everyday Living Life Effectively),” Purpelle said.

Be sure to check out the next screening on May 19 and utilize this unique opportunity to build community and engage in conversation through appreciating classic thought-provoking films.

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Featured Image: Flyer for the Purple Reels Pop Up Cinema on May 19 in honor of Malcom X’s birthday.