CinemaSpace: A haven for Montreal cinephiles

A still from The Mechanism of Spring
There’s a lot of great things about working at Forget the Box (and hey, there should be, we all do this for free). What I love the most though is that through FTB there are always new opportunities to connect with interesting people and learn about exciting events in the arts community.

Such was the case when I was invited recently by the Segal Centerfor the Performing Arts to attend the debut screening of their CinemaSpace 2012 program. Running from January until May, CinemaSpace is a screening venue dedicated to showcasing independent film and video. Co-directed by Daichi Saito and Malena Szlam, the emphasis of the programming at CinemaSpace is experimental and avant-guard in an intimate theatre at the SegalCenter.

By listening to them eagerly share the 2012 CinemaSpace line up, experimental film is clearly a deep passion for both Saito and Szlam. The duo first met while studying filmmaking at Concordia in 2006 and they were hired together as co-directors of CinemaSpace in 2010. Besides running CinemaSpace, Saito and Szlam are filmmakers and active members of the Double Negative Collective.

With all their work, their goal is to create a healthy and flourishing community of non-commercial artists in Montreal. “Before there just wasn’t much happening in terms of experimental film here in Montreal,” Saichi told me over the phone last week, “with CinemaSpace it’s so exciting to see a real exchange between audiences and local experimental artists.”

To kick off their 2012 season, CinemaSpace presented highlights from the 2011 Ann Arbour Film Festival, one of the oldest film festivals in North America. The festival is a collection of experimental and avant garde short films from around the world, and every year the organizers of the Ann Arbour Film Festival create a “best of the fest” short list which then travels to independent cinema venues across the United States. Thanks to a connection Saichi has with the organizers in Michigan, for the second year in a row Montreal has the distinction of being the only Canadian stop on the tour.

Now anyone who used to read my column when I wrote Friday Film Reviews knows that experimental film is not my favourite genre. Two of my favorite things about film are narrative and performance, something that is mostly irrelevant in experimental film. That being said, I went with an open mind to last Thursday’s opening night. Now I can’t honestly say I enjoyed the entire evening of programing, some of it was pretty hard for me to sit through. But I did thoroughly enjoying one short in particular, The Mechanism of Spring which was an animated short from Japan. Other shorts that deserve special shout outs were Nulepsy about a man’s pathological need to be nude and Pink about Korean sex workers.

So if you are a fervent lover of experimental film or like me interested in expanding your film horizons, CinemaSpace is definitely for you. With tickets starting at $8, the next CinemaSpace event is February 4th, a screening of Nitrate Kisses by Barbara Hammer. You can check out the schedule on the Segal Centre website.

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