Just when you thought indie cinemas were dying out, a new theatre rises. But don't expect to see back-to-back screenings of Hollywood blockbusters at the Brunswick Theatre. Run by Scott Gilbert and his partner, Bre Walt, the theatre, housed on the second floor of the old Poor Alex (296 Brunswick, at Bloor), is devoted to small-scale docs about social change. The two met at the University of Guelph, where they helped run a doc screening and speakers series. Let's hope their grassroots chutzpah finds an audience in T.O. See Indie & Rep Film Listings, page 90, for this week's lineup.
Why no big opening bash?
We were aiming for February 1, but the renos took a little longer and cost a bit more than we thought. We started screenings February 11 and have used some of that money to pay off plumbers, electricians and stuff. We're planning a big opening on April 1, which will include radical hiphop, scenes from populist plays, political clown and satire, poetry of liberation and some film stuff.
Why open a theatre when indie cinemas are having a rough time?
We were screening films at the Bloor Cinema last year and it was working out, but the space was too large for crowds of 100 to 200 people. It was difficult to host discussions after the film, which is what we want to do. Unlike the rep cinemas, we're not screening first-run films. Our focus is on documentaries that you can't get at Blockbuster or even online. There are hundreds, even thousands of films out there that barely miss the level for Hot Docs or that are marketed to universities and don't get theatrical runs.
What are your programming criteria?
We're focusing on social justice, politics and the environment and want to combine films with speakers when possible. By May we're hoping to host debates as well. With, say, the municipal elections, we'll provide a space where fringe candidates will be welcomed and people can ask questions.
What do you get for that $20/month membership?
Unlimited access to all our programming, free DVD rentals (we rent many of the films we're screening), reserved seating. Plus, we're pegging it to renewable energy use. For every membership we sell, we'll guarantee that 1 per cent of our energy will come from a renewable source. We won't put a turbine on our roof, but we will purchase the equivalent amount of energy from a wind farm and have it added to Ontario's power grid.
Fave doc filmmakers?
I'd say recently Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, directors of Jesus Camp. And Bre and I are both Robert Greenwald types.
Michael Moore -- pro or con?
He's good on some things. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a flop. It could have hit home hard on some serious issues, but it was negligent and left out some blatantly obvious contradictions in the official story.
Any grumblings from neighbour Bloor Cinema?
Nope. We've got a great relationship with them. We'll be carrying their programs, and you can find our flyers there. We're doing this less as a commercial venture and more as a venue for discussion and to foster positive constructive social change. We want to make this space available to all independent organizations, whether it's for cult films, stand-up comedy or indie festivals, screening things from gay and lesbian issues to environmental and political issues. We're an alternative venue that's reasonably priced.
Additional Interview Audio Clips
On what groups they'll be partnering with