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Marcel Braitstein

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Pure Art - The Maasai

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How a Movie Is Chosen

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Film - Picking Films
for the Hudson Film Society Screenings

            The Hudson Film Society presents films and video of recorded opera at Village Theatre. The films and opera are not generally available in the commercial movie theatres. The cost is $70 for the eight-film season and $99 for the six operas.

            Hudson Film Society, 450 424 2893;

            Choosing a program of films is an enviable (or unenviable) challenge that faces the Hudson Film Society over the course of each season. There are three categories of concern, the eight-film (monthly) series, DocFest and the end of the season Film Festival. Perhaps the most difficult of these is the eight-film series.

            A film society, by definition, is a membership club where people can watch screenings of films that would otherwise not be shown in mainstream cinemas. In Spain and Ireland they are known as "Cineclubs," and in Germany they are known as "Filmclubs".

            Editorial output reinforces the work of these organizations, as they produce hand-programmes, schedules, information sheets, and even essays, supporting the significance of their exhibitions. A common feature that may characterize a film society screening is that they begin with an introduction of the film to the audience. Sometimes the filmmakers themselves are guests and introduce their films and answer questions after the credits have run.

            The Hudson Film Society is affiliated with an outreach program of the Toronto International Film Festival called The Film Circuit. There are 190 organizations in the program and the collective mandate is the screening of Canadian and International films. The circuit provides advice, helps to arrange for guests and maintains an all-important relationship with the various distributors who collect the "rights" payment for each theatrical screening. A film must have a Canadian distribution agreement before it can be shown in a theatre. These agreements are usually short term and are easier to determine for recent films. To find out who owns the rights for older films is often a difficult process and beyond the assistance of the Film Circuit.

            The local Society maintains a list of prospective films from which their final choices are made by majority Committee vote. The list is compiled from many sources such as newspaper and magazine articles and reviews, recommendations from the Film Circuit and suggestions from members. Many considerations are at play because of the general make-up of the local audience but more or less that audience is similar to other clubs in Canada and their experiences are often considered in discussing choices. One bothersome restriction is that one distributor will not allow theatrical screenings of their films via DVD or BluRay. Two examples of selections from that distributor were. The Sessions and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

            International choices often come from the list of films nominated for the Annual Academy Awards in the foreign language category. Where possible, the opening film of each season is the Oscar winner. That tradition led to a lengthy debate for the September opener this year. The Oscar film was Amour, which is a French film of great reputation but with a story that might be challenging to some members. There had been suggestions from several persons that this film should not be shown. There were also several requests to make sure Amour was on the program. The real question was how could a Film Society not show a film that had won 42 awards around the world including the Palm d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar in the US. The Film Society Committee decided to honour tradition and open their 8th season on September 16 with Amour. The serious opening film will be followed by the lighter, Quartet in October and in November an Oscar nominated film from Chile with the title, No. Program choices for the remaining 5 months will be determined later.

            Very few films gain 100% acceptance because of the varied tastes of a Society's members. It is best to judge the entire season's program and accept that from time to time films can be challenging.

            A less popular category of film is the documentary but there are many excellent films of this type produced. The Hudson Film Society feels a responsibility to make these available and they do this through a yearly festival called DocFest. This year's program included a controversial entry titled The End of Time. Many audience members didn't like the film even though it was picked as one of the top 10 films produced in Canada in 2012. This again brings up the question of how can a responsible Film Society not show a film from such an important ranking.

            The annual Film Festival is a 5-night selection, which adds up to a varied cinema adventure. It is here that more challenging films might be included. But even in a Festival context it is wise to vary the program with a light film following a more challenging entry and avoid programing two subtitled entries in a row.

            Even though every film in a series might not be to the viewers liking there is the bonus of broadening the appreciation of the cinema art form and, best of all, discovering a gem that resonates in a very personal way.