Around sunset today, someone is going to walk into a theatre to watch a movie. They may enjoy it, or hate it, or find themselves indifferent. For some, it will be the 40th movie they’ve seen that week, just another to add to the pile, or the one that finally makes it all click. The most commonly asked question during a film festival is a variation on “Have you had a chance to check out many films?” Variety is the spice of VIFF.
Apart from “Drive,” which wasn’t showing in contention, I didn’t see a single film theatrically during the festival. I spent 11 out of the festival’s 16 days working at Pacific Cinematheque, a mainstay for screenings along with Vancity Theatre, Granville 7, and the Vogue.
I began volunteering for PC back in February, and this past July they hired me on as a part-time theatre manager. During the festival, I oversaw volunteers and helped the good people at VIFF with their day-to-day activities as film after film cycled in and out of the building’s lone theatre.
The experience taught me that I’m estranged from the movies. After more than two years of writing film criticism and seeing films at a heightened degree of regularity, I’ve been feeling a little tapped out lately. Part of it is life. I’ve given much of my time and energy over the last year to hammering out an appropriate workload, and with four or five responsibilities on the horizon for the remainder of October, it doesn’t look as though my schedule will lighten up anytime soon. But with the demands of VIFF over with, I’m looking forward to devoting a bit more of myself to the big dark rooms I love so much, this time on the inside rather than the lobby.
Going to the movies gives me great joy. I like to be told a story. I like learning about the perspectives of the people around me, or those on the other side of the globe, living under circumstances that are foreign to me. The stories aside, I like the ritual of it – choosing a seat, pulling out my notebook, making sure everything’s in place. Soon enough I’ll sit back and become enveloped. I lose myself in a theatre. Subconsciously, I’m tickled by the idea that two hours after the room goes black and the screen lights up, I’ll be changed in a certain way, maybe significantly, maybe not. When I go to the movies, I travel. I absorb. I become someone new by default, because I’ve experienced more of the world.
I like being around people who feel the same way. That’s why working at the festival was so terrific. Even though I didn’t have a chance to watch the movies themselves, I could see them on the faces of the patrons who walked out into the daylight afterward. I’d ask people what they thought, even though I had no real context for their reaction. Just to see and feel and know they had one, to get a taste of the way they’ve changed.
I can talk about the movies endlessly. I’d like to think that it doesn’t come from a media-obsessed geek autism over facts (though perhaps that’s partly true), but rather as an offshoot of the deeply personal acts of watching, listening, feeling. As busy as I become with other things, I need to remind myself that what happens to me in a theatre is important to my development as a human being. Without it, I crumble inside. I go hungry.