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I went to the cinema naked and here’s what I learnt

WORDS BY LEA TURLINGTON

“It’s funny how when you change the rules and everyone around you follows them unquestioningly, anything can be normalised, including stripping naked at the cinema.”

Growing up, we’re told that our body – our naked body – is an inherently sexualised thing. But there’s nothing quite like going to a nudist event to remind yourself that nudity is just another part of life.

My partner and I were part of the 200-something people who bared it all at the Lido for a screening of Nude Tuesday, a new Kiwi comedy that’s spoken entirely in a made-up, Nordic-sounding language. 


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The first thing I noticed when we arrived was that the cinema is actually a great place to hold a naked event. Taking place in a heated, cosy and dark room, it’s probably just as nice as being naked in your own living room. 

But most importantly, you have the screen as the main focal point; you’re all facing the same way to watch the movie. Unlike some nudist events, there are no awkward ‘Where do I look?’ moments and no uncomfortable idle chit-chat with the other patrons, save for the pleasantries of “Do you mind if I sit here?”. 

In the foyer at the Lido before it started, it was easy to spot those who were there for the naked screening because they were all carrying towels. Draping a towel or blanket over the seat was part of the mandatory requirements for the screening, as well as a strict no photography rule.

This was the third naked session at the Lido and it’s gotten the formula down to a tee – its events are truly safe, inclusive and fun. Light-hearted and fun, Nude Tuesday is an absurdist comedy about a couple that spends a week at a new-age nudist retreat in a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage; a great choice for a film screened at a nude event.

A one-of-a-kind comedy that’s spoken entirely in an improvised, gibberish-esque language, it follows middle-aged couple Laura and Bruno’s journey into miscommunication, full-frontal nudity and self-discovery.

A boundary-pushing film, the gibberish has been subtitled in post-production by various comedians, who have each been given a cut of the film. On streaming services, it’s possible to choose the version that you want to see, with each version being apparently quite different.

We saw the version subtitled by English comedian Julia Davis, so if you see a version by someone else you might get treated to an entirely different story. My only initial reservation in going to the event was that as a non-binary person, letting people see you naked can be one of those weird, dysphoric things.

When you’re clothed, it’s easy to come across as androgynous, but when you’re completely naked, it’s a lot easier for strangers to make assumptions about your gender, just based on how we as a society characterise bodies. Let me phrase it like this: when you’re naked, your mullet can be as spikey as you want, but people will see your boobs and think ‘woman’.

But honestly, it wasn’t a problem at all. Circling back to the whole ‘the cinema is probably the best event to have something like this in’ line of thought – no one really talks to you. There’s a movie to look at the whole time, so you’re never the centre of attention. 

An environment where the fact that you’re naked is not the most interesting thing happening at any given moment is a surprisingly liberating one. The whole afternoon was led by a charismatic host/MC (“You know what they say about public speaking; you have to picture your audience naked and I’ve got 200 naked people staring at me right now”).

The audience was also notably diverse, full of people of all ages who had come either with their partners or a big group of friends. It was a judgement-free environment where anyone and everyone and anyone was allowed in, and people were there with the right intentions: to have a good time. 

At the end of the film when the credits rolled, people just started redressing again as if on cue. It felt almost natural, like ‘Yeah, this is what you do at the end of a film – put your clothes back on’. It’s funny how when you change the rules and everyone around you follows them unquestioningly, anything can be normalised, including stripping naked at the cinema with hundreds of other people. 

For tips on getting comfortable with your naked body, try this.

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