Cinematheque series screens arthouse, foreign films for free

VCUarts’ Cinematheque series offers the community a variety of free arthouse screenings each semester on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. at the Grace Street Theatre.

The next Cinematheque screening is Oct. 11 and will feature “About Elly.”  The Iranian film depicts the story of a kidnapped schoolteacher and is directed by Asghar Farhadi, who was named a Time’s 100 Most Influential Person in 2012.

“Part of our vision for Cinematheque is to expand the students’ horizons past the multiplex and introduce them to major world cinema,” said co-programmer and visiting cinema professor Josh Tyree. “Films that have gotten a lot of acclaim across the world that might not necessarily screen in Richmond.”

Tyree said a film enthusiast typically would have to travel to a larger city like Washington D.C. to watch many of the Cinematheque films due to their limited demand and availability.

“Because the films are made in other countries with their own cinematic cultures, it tends to reflect on the culture inevitably,” Tyree said. “I think that the main point of interest for the students is learning about the more artistic technical tricks and tips and innovative things that filmmakers are doing in other countries.”

For example, Tyree said in some countries the government is more heavily involved with the film industry which can lead to censorship. In other cases, he said, the atmosphere in nations like Iran and Russia creates a unique cinematic “vibrancy.”

For VCU students, the film screenings are a staple in the cinema curriculum.

“(Cinematheque) forms the backbone for a particular course I’m teaching this fall that has to do directly with the cinematheque films,” Tyree said.

Tyree said the program also makes a conscious effort to screen films in 35 mm projections with actual film opposed to digital installations, which are the standard at most modern theatres.

“It’s like the equivalent of seeing the thing as it was designed to be consumed, designed to be appreciated as a work of art rather than a digital version of it,” Tyree said. “The difference between analog and digital would be like (the difference between) a phonograph or vinyl compared to an mp3.”

Digitizing a film constitutes a computer-recreation of the visuals, which usually leads to some color and lighting distortion. According to Tyree, this creates a digital version with a slightly different depiction from the original analog film.

Due to the limited availability of film prints and the increasing prevalence of digital releases to theatres, Tyree said this semester Cinematheque has been forced to utilize blu-ray in place of the traditional 35mm projections.

“Another reason is because a lot of newer films are actually shot on digital,” Tyree said. “So digital copies are pretty much identical to what the filmmaker intended because there never was an analog version of it.”

Cinema, visual arts and creative writing students comprise the bulk of the audience at Cinematheque events, but Tyree said the screenings are open and free for anyone. After the films, there is also a question and answer session with professors and guest speakers.

“Part of the educational purpose of that is to introduce students and the community to the idea of cinema as an art,” Tyree said. “We try to expand people’s minds by challenging them to think of what is possible of the art form.”

Georgia Geen, Contributing Writer

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