For several years, the Regina chapter of the Council of Canadians (COC) has hosted screenings of documentaries covering a variety of social issues, from hunger and poverty to the environment. Although the events were generally well-received, the costs associated with public presentation of the films could sometimes be prohibitive.
“When you screen films, in many cases, there’s a screening fee or a performance fee that has to be paid to the producers of the film,” said James Elliott, chairperson of the COCs local chapter. “The newer the films, in many cases, the higher the prices.”
In September, 2010, the COC found a solution in the form of the international organization Cinema Politica: a Montreal-based media arts non-profit organization dedicated to supporting small scale screenings such as the Regina COCs. Although most of the chapters are in Canada, there are member groups all around Europe, and even one in Jakarta, Indonesia. The extensive network of clubs provides them with the power to cut costs.
“What Cinema Politica did is they collectively approached these film producers and said, ‘We would like to do a collective agreement, so if we pay one fee, the whole network gets access to the films,’” Elliott said..
For a simple $150 annual membership fee, paid for in Regina by the COC, Elliott and other local co-ordinators around the globe can host monthly Cinema Politica screenings, giving the public free or very cheap access to films they would otherwise never see in a public forum.
Last Thursday, the club showed Inside Job, the critically acclaimed and often infuriating 2010 documentary about the backroom dealings before, during, and after the 2008 American financial crisis.
“One thing that is interesting is we seem to be getting different people every time, which means there is a variety of people who know what we’re doing,” Elliott said.
Although many of the films would be accessible to patrons on the Internet, Elliott sees value in gathering people together for the screenings.
“Part of the focus of the events is not simply to just watch the film, but to talk about it afterward,” he said. “It provides a free introduction to some of these issues. It gives people a chance to talk about issues they may have seen or heard about. There’s a general sense of getting together and hearing about topics, sharing ideas, and responding to them.”
Cinema Politica may be a wide network, but individual clubs have full control of the films they wish to screen. According to Elliott, this allows them to program based on the issues currently important to the community and allows them to work in co-operation with local organizations.
“We’ve just been approached by an international development group in the city. They want to show something to their participants. It’s going to be around world poverty or food, because Oct. 16 is World Food Day,” he said.
Other topics slated for the coming months include farm fishing in Canada, the shift towards cycling, and gay and lesbian rights.
All screenings are free and held on campus thanks to involvement by RPIRG. The next screening is to be held on Oct. 20 in the Research and Innovation Centre room 119 at 7 p.m. The film is yet to be determined, but more information can be found on the Facebook page of the Regina Chapter of the COC.