We all have a lot to think about right now, regardless of where we are in the world, and although many people may be facing life-threatening situations and making extremely difficult decisions, I want to express my thoughts on how the cancelling of various events near and dear to cinephiles may have larger repercussions. In no way do I mean to slight any of the tremendous hardships anyone is going through right now, things I can’t even begin to comprehend, but I simply want to discuss how our current situation impacts something that I (and maybe you as well) truly love.
On Thursday, Ben Mankiewicz announced the cancellation of the TCM Classic Film Festival.
The remaining four days of Noir City Hollywood are also cancelled. Several days ago, SXSW was cancelled. Closer to home, our library system has cancelled all programs (including my Great Movies program, where I was scheduled to show Preston Sturges’s Hail the Conquering Hero on April 2) through May 2, 2020.
Many of these cancellations aren’t just disappointing to fans, they also cause serious economic consequences on multiple levels. We’re not only talking about plane tickets, hotels, and other related expenses, but also the possibility that these festivals and events (as well as filmmakers, distributors, and others) may face serious economic woes. Many online movie lovers have recommended that people begin donating to film societies, independent movie theaters, and other venues, and that’s certainly helpful, but I have an additional concern.
Although it hasn’t always been this way, watching movies has turned into a solitary activity for many. We’re all aware of the ease of watching a movie at home or on a computer/tablet/phone, completely separated (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.) from others. Even small events like my library movie program at least bring together a roomful of people to watch and discuss movies, something you can’t get from watching by yourself. Part of what makes movie gatherings and film festivals so much fun is engaging with other fans, talking, and yes, even sometimes disagreeing with each other, about the movies we watch. It’s about the movies, but it’s also about developing friendships and establishing relationships. My greatest fear is that our current situation will isolate us even more than we already are. Even if (a very optimistic “if”) a vaccine for the coronavirus were developed soon, we’ve already been impacted. People may retreat further into themselves, preferring safe, comfortable surroundings. It will be easier than ever to simply stay put.
But I encourage you to do otherwise. Maybe not right now, but hopefully in the near future, attend a festival, meet people, talk about movies. (And I’m not only talking about movies. Apply the same to live music, dance, recitals, poetry readings, standup comedy, book clubs, you name it.) Even if it’s something as simple as inviting a couple of friends to your house to watch a movie, do it. Be smart, take precautions, but don’t live in fear. Cinema is filled with beauty and wonder, things that make us glad to be alive, and while we are alive, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating movies and the joy they bring to our lives. Yes, be safe, be smart, but also enjoy movies and share, share, share them with others. Thank you for reading.