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Darren H

The Public Cinema

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Today I'm feeling a bit like Rob at the end of High Fidelity when he decides to produce an album by those skater kids. After complaining about the film scene in Knoxville for more than a decade and daydreaming about how to improve it, my friend Paul and I officially launched The Public Cinema. We're kicking it off with twice-a-month screenings at the Knoxville Museum of Art, but we plan to also program events--no-budget indies and avant-garde work--at a rock club.

 

We won't know if it's a success, of course, until we have a few screenings under our belt, but the response on social media has been really encouraging. We've already gotten a push from the soon-to-be-launched alt-weekly, and the manager of a local restaurant (and former classmate of Paul's) is excited enough by the announcement that she's volunteered to welcome everyone after the first screening.

 

At TIFF this year I had along conversation with the guy who heads up Cinema Guild (my favorite American distributor) and shared with him our ideas for The Public Cinema. He basically said, "This is the future of theatrical distribution for company's like mine." It's exciting. The KMA is a great space, 1080p projection does the trick for most Blu-ray content, and for now at least I've been able to convince a few filmmakers and sales agents to give us a free screening.

 

 

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It's a weird situation. Our much-loved alt-weekly, The Metro Pulse, was bought out by Scripps seven or eight years ago and then killed without warning a few months ago. The editor and most of his lead staff are about to launch a new paper, The Knoxville Mercury, and a certain percentage of this town -- including the people most likely to be interested in our film series -- are closely monitoring its progress. The Mercury has almost 5,000 followers on Facebook, so their post today reached our key demographic and helped us hit 200 likes in 12 hours.

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This is so cool. Man, I hope I get to visit someday. Congratulations, Darren! Makes me think back to (and miss) the early days of A&F with you and Doug Cummings, before he launched into hosting film programs. 

Edited by Overstreet

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This is great news, Darren. A truly fantastic idea. And I hope I can find my way to Knoxville again to join you all for a screening.

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A quick and exciting update . . .

 

We had our first screening of experimental shorts last night, and it drew 40 people, all of whom were totally game for what was a really challenging program. We also announced last night that we're dramatically expanding our offerings for the fall, with three separate strands of programming:

 

Flicker & Wow -- At least three more nights of experimental cinema at The Pilot Light, Knoxville's legendary rock club/art space.

 

Made in the U.S.A. -- Five nights of recent American indies at Scruffy City Hall, which is located on Market Square, the hub of Knoxville's downtown social life.

 

International Currents -- Four Sunday matinees of recent favorites from the international festival circuit at the Knoxville Museum of Art, the most beautiful screening room in town.

 

The best part is we now have a small operating budget thanks to a soon-to-be-announced national sponsor and an anonymous gift from a local arts supporter, so we're going to keep all of the screenings free and pay the artists. It's kind of radical idea -- cinema as a public art! It's really fun getting to contact distributors and say, "[name] is one of the best filmmakers on the planet, but none of his/her films have ever screened in Knoxville. We're trying to change that. How much would it cost for one screening?"

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This is so inspiring. I may not get to participate, but nevertheless, reading this I just feel grateful for you and your vision, Darren. 

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Thanks, guys. The challenge now is preventing this little side project from swallowing up too much of my free time.

 

A fun anecdote from last night. We screened at a place called The Pilot Light, which was opened 15 years ago as a communal art space. Hundreds of places have come and gone in that part of town but The Pilot Light is still going strong, mostly because they keep their overhead so low. Even the bartenders are volunteers.

 

The owner had a massive grin on his face during the program and congratulated us afterwards. He's obviously very sympathetic to our vision for paying the artists. I told him I'd been negotiating with a distributor who wants $50 more than we've budgeted for a film I'm determined to show in October and that I'd decided I'd pay the extra $50 myself if necessary and just consider it a personal thank you to a director whose films have meant so much to me over the past decade. He said, "Do it. Last week I guaranteed a band $400. We made a total of $320 between the door and bar, so I covered the rest. You should always negotiate, but if it's necessary just give them the money. Or else, what's the point of doing this?"

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If any of you are planning trips to/through East Tennessee this fall, you should try to plan it around one of our screenings. We posted the full program yesterday. I'm as proud of this lineup as I am of anything I've accomplished as a critic/writer over the past 20 years.

 

I Believe in Unicorns
Made in the U.S.A.    
Directed by Leah Meyerhoff
This debut feature is a road trip through the stunning and complex landscape of troubled young love.
August 12 · Scruffy City · 8:00 p.m.

Tu dors Nicole
International Currents    
Directed by Stéphane Lafleur
Recent college graduate Nicole is bright, moody and in no hurry to embark on adult life. She’s also not sleeping very well.
August 23 · KMA · 2:00 p.m.

When It Was Blue
Flicker and Wow    
Directed by Jennifer Reeves
A live, ephemeral film performance and an ode to a beautiful natural environment that is fast diminishing.
September 1 · Pilot Light · 7:30 p.m.

Tangerine
Made in the U.S.A.    
Directed by Sean Baker
After hearing that her boyfriend cheated on her while she was in jail, a hooker and her best friend set out to teach him a lesson.
September 9 · Scruffy City · 8:00 p.m.

Voilà l’enchaînement
International Currents    
Directed by Claire Denis
A relationship begins, welcomes children, and explodes, all in thirty minutes. Screens with The Princess of France.
October 4 · KMA · 2:00 p.m.

Screening with:

The Princess of France
International Currents    
Directed by Matías Piñeiro
Victor returns home after his father’s death to prepare a production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Screens with Voilà l’enchaînement.
October 4 · KMA · 2:00 p.m.

The Mend
Made in the U.S.A.    
Directed by John Magary
A comic drama about rage, doubt, lust, madness, and other brotherly hand-me-downs.
October 14 · Scruffy City · 8:00 p.m.

Horse Money
International Currents    
Directed by Pedro Costa
While the young captains lead the revolution in the streets, the people of Fontainhas search for Ventura.
October 25 · KMA · 2:00 p.m.

The Forbidden Room
Flicker and Wow    
Directed by Guy Maddin
The latest feature film from Guy Maddin is, like every other film from Guy Maddin, difficult to describe.
November 3 · Pilot Light · 7:30 p.m.

Homemakers
Made in the U.S.A.    
Directed by Colin Healy
A singer with a penchant for destruction reconciles her domestic fantasies as she restores an abandoned home.
Director Q&A via Skype
November 11 · Scruffy City · 8:00 p.m.

Peace Officer
International Currents    
Dir. by Scott Christopherson & Brad Barber
Winner of multiple awards at SxSW, Peace Officer is an engrossing study of the rise of police militarization.
Director will attend
November 17 · KMA · Time TBA

Experimental Shorts 2
Flicker and Wow    
Titles To Be Announced
The December 1 edition of Flicker and Wow will be a program of experimental short films culled from the festival circuit. Stay tuned for coming attractions.
December 1 · The Pilot Light · 7:30 p.m.

Christmas, Again
Made in the U.S.A.    
Directed by Charles Poekel
A heartbroken Christmas-tree salesman returns to New York City hoping to put his past behind him.
Director Q&A via Skype
December 9 · Scruffy City · 8:00 p.m.

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Darren, any comments on Tangerine? I see it's streaming on Netflix in the U.S. now.

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It's fantastic. I'd recommend withholding judgment for the first 20 or 30 minutes. I had the same response as Mike D'Angelo:

 

Quote

Over time, though, these passionate, street-smart whirligigs grew on me, and by the end I was surprised by how fiercely protective of their fragile happiness I felt. The characters didn’t change at all— I changed. . . . In any case, the two irrepressible women, in all their violence and compassion, were all Tangerine needed. Did I like them? Not at first. Did I relate to them? Not in the least. Did that matter? Not one iota.

Edited by Darren H

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And since this thread was revived, I can't not mention that this week we unveiled our spring lineup and also announced a new collaboration with Big Ears, which, in my opinion, is the best music festival in America. We'll be doing a Q&A with Laurie Anderson and have a number of other, exciting events in the works.

Made in the U.S.A. at Scruffy City Hall
Spotlighting the best of contemporary American independent cinema

January 13
Uncle Kent 2
Directed by Todd Rohal (U.S.A., 73 minutes)

February 10
Hitchcock/Truffaut
Directed by Kent Jones (U.S.A., 79 minutes)

March 9
Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party
Directed by Stephen Cone (U.S.A., 87 minutes)

April 13
To Be Announced
Waiting to confirm until after the Sundance Film Festival


International Currents at the Knoxville Museum of Art
Spotlighting the work of important international film artists

January 24
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi
Directed by Jafar Panahi (Iran, in Farsi with English subtitles, 82 minutes)
#14 on the BFI’s Best of 2015 list

February 21
In the Shadow of Women
Directed by Philippe Garrel (France, in French with English subtitles, 73 minutes)

March 20
Mountains May Depart
Directed by Jia Zhang-ke (China, in various dialects with English subtitles, 131 minutes)

April 24
Cemetery of Splendor
Directed by Apithchatpong Weerasethkul (Thailand, in Thai with English subtitles, 122 minutes)
#5 on the BFI’s Best of 2015 list


Flicker & Wow at The Pilot Light
Spotlighting avant-garde and experimental cinema

February 2
The Royal Road
Directed by Jenni Olson (U.S.A., 65 minutes)

March 1
Field Niggas
Directed by Khalik Allah (U.S.A., 60 minutes)

April 5
No Home Movie
Directed by Chantal Akerman (Belgium, in French with English subtitles, 115 minutes)
#6 on the BFI’s Best of 2015 list

May 3
The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers
Directed by Ben Rivers (United Kingdom, in Arabic, English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles, 100 minutes)

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Tangerine is simply one of the most engrossing films I have seen in a long time. I bet this is what someone felt like way back seeing something like 400 Blows for the first time. 

 

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Hooray for cine-clubs and conversations for the common good! Excellent article, M'Leary. I'd love to hear an entire article on "The Uneasy Conscience of Christian Film Culture" at some point.

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