Some cities are lucky enough to have an independent rep house. However, it takes something special to make diehard New Yorker Ted Hope declare “I Want To Live In LA Today And Go To The Greatest Celebration Of Cinema EVER!!!”
That was the message on the producer’s blog, Facebook and Twitter feeds Saturday in honor of Cinefamily’s Fantastic, Elastic 24-Hour Holiday Telethon, a day-long affair designed to raise funds for the nonprofit film group’s operational budget.
The event began at noon today with Spike Jonze hosting a personal retrospective of his career. Later in the evening, Benicio del Toro will introduce Kaneto Shindo’s 1960 film “The Naked Island.” Sunday morning, a 90-minute chat with Elliott Gould will close the marathon.
Between these notable actors and directors, founder and head programmer Hadrian Belove and his Cinefamily team have also assembled some distinguished musical, comedic and journalistic talent for a full 24 hours of film-related programming. Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields will introduce a series of short films with original ukulele compositions, the band No Age will play a live 1 AM show, Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold will give a talk about “Food and Film” and comedian Doug Benson will help close out Saturday evening with a live riff session on selected short films.
Most of the talent on display this weekend are people who attend Cinefamily events, some of them frequently. “We’re very lucky in Los Angeles that the local talent is so great. At the end of the day, it’s the guys on the street, an incredible group of people,” Belove said. “I’m constantly surprised by who’s in the audience.”
Drawing from these different, interconnected spheres of filmgoing for the telethon is line with the Cinefamily spirit, which Belove said resists being defined by a specific niche.
“If you were to peek into a random person’s iPod, there’s not someone who’s just into punk or hip-hop. It’s the same thing with their film interest,” he said. “We do have unifying principles here, but they’re not principles of genre. I like to see someone who comes to a children’s film and might see a trailer for Polish animation.”
To attract and reward cinephiles that might not be within driving distance from West Hollywood, Cinefamily will simulcast the proceedings through their website, as they have done with previous programs and panels. Successful fundraising efforts might mean keeping the equipment and distribution methods in house and allowing more events online.
“All the things that make Cinefamily special, not just another bare-bones repertory cinema comes from that extra support,” said Belove, adding he hopes that continued support will help rescue film exhibition from what he sees as a drab, cookie-cutter model.
“If I were to ask you describe a mutliplex at a mall, if it were a person, how would you describe them? Try it,” he said. “It’s about as functional and blank as an airport or a parking garage. It’s simply a place that’s delivering a movie. I would rather take risks to establish a personality.”
What Belove doesn’t want to get lost in the off-the-wall nature of the weekend is the idea that this isn’t a top-down distribution center.
“People enjoy having a personal investment in each screening and learning from them,” Belove said. “You don’t really have memories of something you saw on DVD. But people have memories of theatrical experiences.”