The brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham joined Hadrian Belove to open Los Angeles’ Cinefamily in 2007, one of the most exciting retrospective venues in the country’s second biggest city.
“The response to Cinefamily has been incredibly warm and welcoming, in excess of my greatest hopes,” said Belove, who is now the Executive Director of Cinefamily. “It has showed what a rich and colorful metropolis LA is and how much it desired a place like this. It’s like pouring a lot of water in the desert and it’s turning into a garden.”
Cinefamily screens their films in Los Angeles’ Silent Movie Theater in the city’s Fairfax neighborhood. After only a few years, they have become well known for their This month, David Kronenberg’s 1979 horror “The Brood” will screen with the early 70s film “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” in the Friday Night Frights series. They’re also hosting a psychotic women film series, a screening of the cult film “Miami Connection,” and a two-part screening tribute to Chuck Jones on the 100th anniversary of the animator’s birth.
The criteria for showing a film at Cinefamily is simple says Belove, “We only show movies we are very enthusiastic about. Enthusiasm is contagious; we don’t show things that we don’t care very deeply about. We’re showing things that are obscure. On the one hand, I didn’t have access to the major retrospectives of known filmmakers, but the films I show are also truly what i’m interested in. I want programs that will be unusual and surprising in some way — Bollywood horror movies, Christian exploitation…”
Belove explained how he’s envisioned his organization: “We see it as a community and a hanging out place, seeing films and seeing each other. When we did the [fundraiser] telethon for the first time [in 2011], I interviewed people for testimonials. It was so moving and surprising, how closely what they said spontaneously mirrored what we had conceived, what we talk about in private, what I hoped they would say. It was more than a theater to them, a place where they were discovering new films, expanding ideas of cinema and cinemagoing.”
Part of Cinefamily’s success comes from making strategic partnerships with Los Angeles personalities and film organizations. Greg Proops (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?”) hosts a regular comedy series; he’ll show “Annie Hall” this Monday. Doug Benson hosts a Movie Interruption series that will screen “Valentine’s Day” on Wednesday.
On how he decides who can guest program at the venue, Belove says, “It’s not that different than picking the movies. I have the emotional relationship with those people as i do with the films. They’re high quality, smart, interesting people. I have enthusiasm for what they’re doing. At some point you have to get where you’re not picking every single film. In the case of someone like Doug Benson or Drafthouse, I’m happy to give them time.
“When we did a city-wide horror retrospective – Nightmare City – we were able to collaborate with the Bob Baker Marionette theater. We were able to help each other and do an event there and still let them do their thing.
“It made a nice show,” Belove confessed. “We’ve gone from being a place struggling to survive to finally finding our sea legs and now supporting other artists and smaller organizations.”