Independent film: with more live programming, even the smallest theaters are moving away from virtual screenings

Long ago, in a world away from the pandemic, a lot of what I would do in this column was to let people know what was to happen at the local theater. Even when the main topic wasn’t a big screen event somewhere in Maine, I would include a sidebar, called Coming to Local Screens, to steer readers to notable films showing at one of the independent theaters of. the state. And while the COVID dilemma still has that independent film aspect of sighing, watching the latest infection rates and then hitting the delete key again, the movies are effectively starting to open.

I ventured out to my first in-person film screening in over a year this summer, full of optimism (and a double dose of Moderna) that perhaps one of life’s greatest joys was going to be within reach again. I haven’t looked back, as COVID rates in Maine have rebounded, thanks to the unvaccinated by challenge.

But live movies do happen, and for small independent screening rooms, abandoning their scrappy, virtual model born of necessity Returning to in-person screenings leaves supporters weighing their options. Portland’s beloved independent places (The Apohadion Theater, Space and PMA Films) are all back to in-person screenings, though the hard lessons learned (by some of us) during this pandemic require some changes.

Jon courtney, a film programmer at the Portland Museum of Art, notes that the museum’s innovative and highly regarded online screenings were recently discontinued, with PMA Films returning to in-person screenings. Courtney said of the PMA’s temporary return to a not-quite-normal situation: “We’re mostly in person at the moment (albeit at 50% capacity and required masks). This does not exclude the possibility of future virtual offers but we do not have any on the horizon at the moment.

During this time, Greg Jamie, a programmer at both The Apohadion and Space, notes that the online visualization model, while being a vital lifeline for many small theaters during the lockdown, may have run its course for now. .

“I don’t feel like I’m done with the virtual for Space or Apohadion,” he said. “In a way, I think the virtual is over with us.”

The space on Congress Street in Portland resumed in-person film screenings. Photo by Joel Tsui

Citing his work alongside artists and filmmakers involved in Space’s ambitious online multimedia experimental showcase Ancestralidad and trance, explains Jamie, “Nationwide virtual cinema is understandably being phased out as theaters attempt to successfully reopen, so there are fewer new options of movies being released this way right now. . But as the numbers continue to be horrific with COVID, I think it’s worth finding ways to present virtual options for people who want to support their local theaters and stay at home. (The Apohadion website describes the new COVID guidelines in person from this strange and wonderful place in clear terms.)

And so PMA Films, The Apohadion, and Space are all showing live action this week. And, as is their own way, each presents the kind of challenging and out of the ordinary cinematic experiences that we love them to bring us. The space shows Gillo Pontecorvo’s thrilling 1966 masterpiece of revolutionary semi-documentary cinema, “The Battle of Algiers ”, screening on Sunday. A still controversial portrayal of the Algerian struggle for independence from the French occupation, the film remains a shocking and stimulating examination of the role of bloody violence in the struggle for freedom which poses how the term “terrorist” will always depend on who you ask me.

PMA Films opens its doors to masked, vaccinated and responsibly spaced viewers for a Friday-Sunday broadcast of Maine filmmaker Richard Kane’s documentary, “Truth tellers. “This is the true story of Brooksville, painter and activist from Maine, Robert Shetterly, whose 255 portraits of Americans then and now highlight people” who had the moral courage to face the problems of social, environmental and economic justice ”.

Film screenings are part of the strong schedule of in-person events at The Apohadion in Portland. Photo by Greg Jamie

And at the Apohadion this week, there’s the live performance of Hungarian host Marcell Jankovics’ 1981 psychedelic cult cartoon, “Son of the White Mare.” This phantasmagorically spiritual and eerie adaptation of various Hungarian folk tales celebrates the struggles of the nomadic peoples of the region against the advance of industrialization. And if that sounds a lot like when Krusty the Clown, in search of a replacement cartoon for his lucrative “Itchy & Scratchy Show,” stumbled upon an incomprehensibly didactic Iron Curtain animated series titled “Worker and Parasite “, well, you are not wrong.

Fortunately, “Son of the white mare”Is a delightfully readable parable of ancient heroes with names like Treeshaker battling industrial-looking crouching dragons who kidnapped three fairy princesses. Presented in imaginative, flat primary color schemes, and with distinctly Hungarian-centric echoes of Hercules, Orpheus, and the Garden of Eden, “Son of the White Mare” is exactly the feast for the senses at best. seen on the big screen. If you missed Tuesday night’s screening, you can, like me, watch it at home on The Criterion Channel, but such a bold, beautiful, and ambitiously programmed screening is exactly what could have drawn me out of the limelight. House. May be.

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.


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