Roman Polanski said cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater. Alfred Hitchcock said drama is life with the dull bits cut out. John LeCarre said having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.
Having said all that, cinema could be considered the most culturally powerful art form today, and on a gritty street in central downtown Detroit, a small nonprofit is quietly becoming the headquarters for the city’s independent filmmakers, cinema lovers and professionals.
This week, the Detroit Film Center is launching its spring film courses (sign-up is recommended by this weekend), including classes in documentary filmmaking, digital video, screenwriting and acting for the screen. Four- to eight-week classes cost from $35 to $500, and range from tutorials on film-editing software to start-to-finish instructions on independent camera-work and film production.
In addition, the center is launching a spring and summer screening series called The Detroit Picture Show, a weekly double-feature highlighting “independent cinema, auteurs, movements, genres, guilty pleasures and the avant-garde,” says Anthony Morrow, DFC executive director and curator of The Detroit Picture Show. For a mere $7, visitors will watch the off-center films in DFC’s intimate screening room, and audience members get a free beverage and bag of popcorn too. Info packets will provide background, reviews and critical essays on each film, and discussions will follow each screening.
The DFC hopes the screening series will help drum up interest and memberships.
“The idea came about to expand our audience … through screenings. Everybody loves movies,” Morrow says.
This Saturday, the series is showing a double feature of director John Cassavetes’ work. Also scheduled are films by Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Lizzie Borden, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and John Schlesinger; film genres to be explored include film noir, blaxploitation, Italian neorealism, experimental and French New Wave.
“We’re filling a niche,” says Morrow. He adds that he expects to see graduate students from Wayne State and film geeks from Ann Arbor attending the screenings much as they attend the Detroit Film Theatre, located at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Founded in 1993, the film center is the only organization of its kind in metro Detroit, a nonprofit that regularly provides classes in the art, craft and technology of film and video making, as well as offering equipment rentals and a host of services to its 225 members. The DFC opened its new downtown headquarters in May 2003.
Since opening in the central city, hundreds have passed through the center’s doors, says Bob Andersen, founder and president of the DFC. Andersen divides his time between the center and chairing the Animation and Digital Media Department for the College for Creative Studies. The DFC has a five-year lease at 1227 Washington Blvd., and Andersen says he’s happy with the location.
“We need a strong arts culture in the downtown area. We wanted to contribute to that.”
Class schedules, prices, and registration forms, as well as film screening schedules, can be found at www.detroitfilm.org or during business hours at the center, Monday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 313-961-9936.
On May 22, The Detroit Picture Show features a Cassavetes double feature: Opening Night (1977), starring Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, a drama about an aging Broadway actress who faces her mortality. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) stars Ben Gazzara and Seymour Cassel in a drama about a gambling addict who accepts an offer to kill a rival bookie.
Doors open at 7 p.m. First screening is at 8 p.m. and second screening begins at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for DFC members or $7 for nonmembers.Erica Davis is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]