UCR ARTSblock offers alternative to weekend blockbusters

Courtesy of Aurora Guerrero
Courtesy of Aurora Guerrero

Famed Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman famously stated, “Film has dream, film has music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.” Maybe that gets a bit melodramatic, but one would be hard-pressed to argue that film, as a medium, does not play a central role in our daily lives.

In the past hundred years, cinema has moved swiftly from 10-minute clips playing for five cents inside Nickelodeon “peepshow” machines to 72-by-53 IMAX screens illuminating starship chases through space and contemporary society’s favorite mythology: the Marvel superhero. We all love our “Star Wars.” Many of us have waited for hours outside a multiplex with friends to see Thor or Iron Man or whoever makes snarky comments and fights the power-hungry or revenge-seeking antagonist to a standstill, always emerging victorious afterward. It’s entertaining — who could blame us for being enamored with the sleekness and action of it all?

Heading to the University Village or your local theater is the perfect way to wind down after your week of studying, but there may also be times when you crave a different flavor: something that has dream, a film that is like music.

The easiest way to seek this kind of connection in our community is at the Culver Center for the Arts off of Main Street in downtown Riverside. The screening room, adjacent to an art gallery perfect for browsing before your feature, holds a mere 78 people. It’s small, it’s rarely crowded, they don’t play previews before the show, you can’t bring in outside food or drink — but this is all part of the charm; it’s what makes the experience something different from going to your standard movie theater.

The art we consume helps to shape how we view our reality. Film (and music) is special in the way that it is more accessible to the general public than perhaps literature or visual art. Cinema is the language we all speak, whether we’re conscious of it or not.

The Culver Center showcases many foreign language and independent films. One of the titles available in the coming weeks is “Korczak,” a Polish film about the Holocaust by Academy Award-winning director Andrzej Wajda. The showing will be the weekend of April 29 and 30, and was organized to celebrate Polish Constitution Day, which is May 3.

Another example of the diverse selection offered is “Mosquita y Mari,” directed by Aurora Guerrero and filmed in Huntington Park, which will be playing a one-time showing on May 12. A trip to the Culver Center is also a way to find films that have a more local feeling in that they were made independently in neighborhoods rather than a studio.

These are just some of the examples of different cultures and aesthetics viewers are exposed to. Unlike your typical theater, the Culver Center only has screenings on the weekends. There are also occasions when the director or other members of the production team will be present for a Q-and-A after the screening. Other times, the staff will hold a discussion afterward so that the audience has a chance to share their thoughts on the film.

It is possible to find some of these movies online. Hulu’s criterion collection in particular is a great resource for searching out older and less mainstream cinema. That being said, there is something about the experience of physically sitting in a theater with others and enjoying a piece of art amongst strangers. It’s a kind of community setting we aren’t privileged to as often in our modern information age. Many of the films offered show for free — it’s as easy as signing up online to receive a ticket.

Roger Ebert, the first film critic to ever win a Pulitzer for criticism, was a passionate moviegoer. He once famously said, “To see good films and to see important films is one of the most profoundly civilizing experiences that we can have as people.” I contend that it is indeed important to see films outside of our normal viewing experience. It is a way to learn about people and art in other parts of the world. There’s nothing wrong with loving superhero movies (though a more cynical cinephile may deem it escapist or throwaway entertainment), but there’s also something to be said for stepping outside of the routine in an attempt to discover something new. That’s exactly what the Culver Center has to offer.

It’s unlikely every single one of these films will go “deep into the twilight room of your soul,” as Bergman suggested; however, there is always the chance you’ll find a new way of looking at the medium — and by extension, a new way of looking at the world.

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