Cinema department brings film back to it’s roots

Kelly MicKey, Contributing Writer

In an attempt to expose VCU students to the cinematic masterpieces that have most impacted Western culture, the cinema department is hosting free weekly film screenings and lectures.

The VCU Cinematheque Film Series takes place every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Grace Street Theater. The showings present select movies on actual 35mm film — a format which film enthusiasts hail as being the most visually appealing.

All screenings are followed by a discussion of the film with members of the cinema department and occasionally people who worked closely on the film’s creation.

“The goal of the Cinematheque is more or less the same goal as any other cinematheque: to screen historically important, avant-garde or art house films,” said Kirk Kjeldsen, assistant programmer for world cinema at VCU and advanced screenwriting professor.

Kjeldsen said the department models their cinematheque after some of the world’s most renowned programs — such as the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, the Cinémathèque Française in Paris and the British Film Institute in London.

VCU’s department has worked closely with several other Richmond Film organizations such as the James River Film Festival, the VCU French Film Festival and the Virginia Production Alliance to bring “world and experimental cinema” to the Richmond community.

“This is one thing that the world’s cinematheques are doing,” Kjeldsen said. “Keeping the celebration of actual film alive.”

Kjeldsen said the department isn’t against screening Hollywood films, however. This fall, they’ll be featuring Alfred Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest,” a studio film and the third-highest grossing in the box office during the year of its release.
Two years ago, Kjeldsen said the department also screened “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a fantasy movie that received four Oscar nominations in 2013.
“The producer of the film attended the screening and spoke afterwards,” Kjeldsen said. “We prefer to screen films that have been underrepresented or have never been screened in Richmond and celebrate other voices, points of view, and styles.”
The films featured in this program are selected based on several criteria from various countries that present many different cinematic styles. Kjeldsen said he works with the Cinema Program director, Rob Tregenza, to look for interesting or award winning films that have been screened at the world’s major film festival.

“We also meet with and talk to film distributors about their archived 35mm films,” Kjeldsen said. “We encourage our students, faculty and other School of the Arts personnel to make suggestions.”

Although the VCU Cinematheque season is drawing to a close, there is still time to attend screenings.

On Oct. 27, the department will screen the 2012 Oscar-winning film “Django Unchained,” the Nov. 10 showing is “Still, The Children Are Here,” and the Nov. 24 screening is the 1959 film “North by Northwest” by Alfred Hitchcock.

“There’s really no point showing what every other theater is already showing,” Kjeldsen said.

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