Film buffs and movie aficionados were ecstatic with the return of Cinefest for the 2017/18 season. The independent film series kicked off with Maudie on October 10th and Murphy’s Law on October 17th at Pynelogs, which sold out, according to Cinefest coordinator and former independent cinema operator Chris Jones.
“We had to turn people away,” he said of the successful turn out to Murphy’s Law.
Mr. Jones fondly remembers growing up around cinema in Winnipeg and going to see matinees regularly.
“My love for cinema goes a long way. I was lucky enough to be able to walk to the cinema from my house to the Uptown Theatre on Academy Road and pay 10 cents for Saturday afternoon matinees. I did that all through my childhood — I went to films with my family and this was sort of the golden age of the big movie theatres. The Uptown was a pretty classy place with a balcony and Moorish architecture and it still exists today as a bowling alley,” he said.
The passion Mr. Jones developed for movies followed him to university where he studied film in Montreal with the Jesuits. He attended Loyola College in 1967 which is now part of Concordia.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I talked to people and they said, ‘why don’t you study what you love’,” said Mr. Jones of his choice to study film. “I was lucky enough to be there in 1967 for Expo (The 1967 International and Universal Exposition or Expo 67), so that was a pretty swell time to be in Montreal.”
Three years later, Mr. Jones graduated from the program, crediting his knowledge of the silver screen to his instructors who were entrenched on the scene, having been exposed to the film giants of that era. He remembers a teacher that was on the Catholic board at the Cannes Film Festival, who mingled with names like Roberto Fellini (La Dolce Vita).
“It was mind blowing and wonderful to learn from a man like him,” he said of the experience.
Mr. Jones shot a few films on 16mm during his time at Loyola and started looking for work. At that time the only film work being done was in Quebec, and not speaking French was a detriment to the young filmmaker.
Unwilling to give up on his dream, Mr. Jones returned to his hometown of Winnipeg and with the ingenuity and help of a few friends he rescued an old movie theatre, calling it Cinema 3 and opening it to the public.
He operated the theatre for a few years, then relocated to Saskatoon to run a theatre on campus at the university.
From there he opened his own theatre called the Broadway Theatre on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon. It had a bit of a reputation as an adult movie house, and it took some work to revitalize it into a mainstream facility, according to Mr. Jones.
“It was notorious, the Marquee had three X’s on it, so there was a massive cleanup and all the seats were shampooed,” he said of taking the theatre from hardcore to respectable.
A stage was put into the 500 seat theatre and it became a concert venue, which it continues to be to this day.
At one point, the venue went broke, but the community stepped up and resurrected it and Mr. Jones stayed there until moving to the Valley in 2011, bringing his love of cinema with him. He then discovered The Columbia Valley Arts Council (CVA), and he has been running Cinefest ever since. Pynelogs took over the film festival from the Toby Theatre, after its closing in 2015.
“We moved to a small intimate venue and it has worked just fine. We program with the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) through an outreach program called film circuit,” he said.
Film circuit puts together a film catalogue for independent venues to choose from and a local committee sits down and picks the lineup.
“I’m interested in films made all over the world, which means subtitles,” he said of the Cinefest’s celebration of world cinema which is part of the attraction of this year’s lineup of curated film screenings.
It can be challenging for movie goers to see the subtitles if they are sitting in the back because of the setup, but that hasn’t stopped Mr. Jones from featuring them. He just warns people in advance that they might have to crane their heads to read subtitles.
The films are scheduled every second Tuesday of the month from October until April, giving the Valley an opportunity to enjoy a unique cinematic experience.
“We have a core audience that knows what we do and attends on a pretty regular basis. Watching films and going to the movies and having an experience with a bunch of strangers sitting around you is one of the best things that film can do and we have the opportunity to have the experience together —that makes them way stronger than sitting at home in front of your television set or computer,” he said.
Fresh popcorn and even a bar are part of the visceral experience that Cinefest offers at Pynelogs. The next screening The Sense of an Ending, on November 14th at 7 p.m., which is based on Julian Barnes’ Booker Prize winning novel.
Tickets are on sale at the door, by calling 250-342-4423, or visiting columbiavalleyarts.com. Tickets are $12 ($11 for CV Arts members), $5 for children 13 and under.