With Railroad Square Cinema in Waterville still shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Maine Film Center recently launched its first fully remote film series that is centered around films with timely subject matter.

The “Cinema in Conversation” series will run until November and will present a lineup of films that relate to current events that viewers can screen from home, according to a Friday news release from the film center.

The series also includes weekly Zoom sessions where viewers can discuss the films with filmmakers, film experts, policymakers and journalists.

Film center staff created the series as a way to reignite the discussions moviegoers often had at the theater.

“I just think that we’re missing those conversations we used to have in the theater,” Julia Dunlavey, assistant executive director of the film center, said during a phone interview Friday. “The intellectual conversations … a bunch of people in the room, all kinds of different people talking about a film, an issue or a story.

“So that was the idea (for the series) really, we were missing that element of Railroad Square.”

The first film in the series was Christopher McQuarrie’s “The Way of the Gun.”

Around 30 people attended the first Zoom session last Wednesday, which was lead by Se Young “Seth” Kim, an assistant professor of cinema studies at Colby College.

Mike Perreault, executive director of the Maine Film Center, stands alongside a poster of Maine film director John Ford in January 2019. Morning Sentinel file photo

“It was a really great conversation,” said Mike Perreault, the film center’s executive director. “Seth was looking at depictions of guns and militarization in film and media.”

Dunlavey said Kim’s presentation offered attendees a unique experience.

“The militarization and depiction of that (guns) in media and in the film, that’s not something you can just Google,” Dunlavey said. “I was trying to do my research beforehand but this is entirely original writing from Professor Kim so you can’t really get this anywhere else. It was really special to hear his research on films and this interplay between media and reality that you can’t just find on some blog.”

The next film in the series, David Abel’s “Entangled,” explores the efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction and the impacts those efforts have had on the lobster industry along the Gulf of Maine.

Abel, who is also a journalist for the Boston Globe, will be discussing the film on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Other films slated to screen over the next two months include: “In My Skin,” a German documentary that chronicles the daily lives of three women who have experienced domestic violence; “La Llorona,” a political-horror hybrid about a genocidal military general being haunted by his victims; and “Coded Bias,” a documentary about the racial and gender bias in the field of artificial intelligence.

“I think all of the experts will definitely tie the subject matter of the film back to our current moment in a variety of ways,” Perreault said. “This can all breathe new light into issues that are already front of people’s minds.”

According to Perreault, the series has already garnered some positive feedback.

For Railroad Square, we don’t have a plan to open back up yet so it’s important to continue to serve our community,” Perreault said. “People are really glad to be able to log on wherever they are to listen to a filmmaker or expert discuss a film that’s important to them and be able to ask questions and engage that way.” 

The “Cinema in Conversation” series comes after the 23rd annual Maine International Film Festival ran under a modified format the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater in July.

Each film and Zoom session will be announced on the film center’s website approximately two weeks in advance, according to Perreault.

Some movies will be free to watch while others will be accessible through streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.

Those interested in attending the Zoom discussions can sign up on the film center’s website, railroadsquarecinema.com.


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