Faith in the film

Monthly secret movie night keeps attendees in the dark

Scott A. Ford

Do you find the movies playing in theatres uninteresting and boring? Look no further!

Secret Cinema shows anything but mundane movies.

“There has been some pretty excited cheering at some of the screenings when the films were announced and I’ve seen most folks returning every month,” Cinematheque programming director Jaimz Asmundson says.

It isn’t until people actually get to Secret Cinema on the first Friday of every month that they find out which movies from the Winnipeg Film Group’s collection have been chosen to screen. 

“The collection includes films from 1915 to 1976 with many of the copyright holders difficult to track down. For this reason, and also just to make the event more exciting, the films are secret until the night of,” Asmundson says.

Asmundson launched the event this past June. Each month, a different curator is chosen to pick from the nearly 200 classic 16mm films in the collection. 

“The collection has both short and feature films, so some screenings have been of a feature film and some have been a package of shorts,” Asmundson says. 

The curators also share their knowledge of cinema history. Thus far, filmmaker Guy Maddin, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Alison Gillmor, and University of Manitoba radio show host/cinephile Amanda Stefaniuk have been a few of the curators. Upcoming curators will be filmmakers Irene Bindi on Nov. 6 and Deco Dawson Dec. 4.

The idea for Secret Cinema came from a donation the Winnipeg Film Group received.

The University of Manitoba film department had a collection of celluloid film prints and Maddin had an extensive collection of 16mm films, but neither had room to keep them, so everything was donated to the Winnipeg Film Group.

“Since then, we have catalogued and stored the collection in our temperature and humidity controlled vault,” Asmundson says.

Thanks to the donation, Secret Cinema attendees can enjoy original pieces by Sergei Eisenstein, Buster Keaton, Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock.

Asmundson says there are experimental treasures in the collection, including film work by Stan Brakhage, Maya Deren, and early Georges Méliès work. Some of the films are not available on DVD, so this is a rare opportunity to see them.

“Personally, it was quite an amazing experience to see Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon screened on its original format, rather than on DVD – whoops I let one slip!”

Asmundson says planning for the 2016 season is underway and they are looking for new curators.

“This event is all about making the cinema going experience more educational, personal and informal than our regular Cinematheque screenings,” Asmundson says.

All admission is by donation and there is free pizza. 

This event happens the first Friday of every month and it is located at Black Lodge studio on the third floor of Artspace (100 Arthur St.).

Published in Volume 70, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 29, 2015)

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