An Alternative Movie-Going Experience

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Skip the eight dollar ticket, skip the loud guy in the back of the theater, and skip the child kicking the back of your seat.

The Wednesday Night Cinema Society (WNCS) returns this spring quarter after a two quarter absence to screen films at communications 150, studio C, located next to Science Hill. Every Wednesday until June 4, the WNCS screens free films for anyone interested.

Co-founder and assistant film and digital media professor Irene Lusztig said while finding obscure movies online has become easier, watching films with others is part of the cinema experience.

“Before the era of DVDs and Netflix, it used to be really common for college campuses to have cinema clubs,” Lusztig said. “Historically, this was a really important space for the dissemination of experimental film works — so in some ways we are reviving something that has a long tradition.”

Through the WNCS, Lusztig and WNCS co-founder and associate film and digital media professor Irene Gustafson hope to build a culture of cinema appreciation extending beyond the walls of a classroom.

“While the web and alternate distribution platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo or Hulu offer the promise of greater access to films, that hasn’t really translated into a direct experience of a richer and more diverse cinema culture,” Gustafson said. “Americans still watch media that has been produced in the U.S. and is about the U.S. Experimental, low-budget or even politically radical media is still marginalized.”

During the last two quarters, students organized Film Club, a collective that chose films to screen each Wednesday based around quarter-long themes, like 1970s horror films and international animation. Now that Gustafson is back from her sabbatical, the society has been reformed.

Due to scheduling circumstances, films of various genres will be chosen on a week-to-week basis this spring quarter. However, past Wednesday night screenings had varying themes. One example is the theme “encounters with the nonhuman” — a series of films dealing with “complex nonhuman life entities.”

“We had a documentary about contemporary advanced robots and how they’re used in medicine and in nursing homes,” said second- year and curator Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa. “Another film in that series was by Chris Marker, who’s an essay filmmaker who made these amazing experimental documentaries about animals. It’s interesting to show these human-nonhuman relationships.”

The WNCS was originally founded five years ago by Lusztig. Before Santa Cruz, Lusztig lived in bigger cities such as Boston and New York City, and was fascinated by the engaging underground cinema-viewing world that showed experimental, documentary and even old foreign films. She said spaces like the Harvard Film Archive in Boston or Anthology Film in New York City provided a sense of community.

“When I joined the film department at UCSC six years ago, I was really missing my old movie viewing life — there’s no real underground cinema space in Santa Cruz,” Lusztig said. “UCSC students didn’t really have that kind of movie watching experience either, which seemed especially unfortunate for film students.”

The communications building includes a large screening space complete with big screens and speakers. As it is rarely used in the evening, it became the meeting place for group. WNCS’s simple mission continues to focus on casually screening unique films for students and film enthusiasts alike.

“It’s not really a society, like with fees or handshakes. It’s really just a group of people who get together and see films,” Schultz-Figueroa said. “It’s open for people who want to come by. If you want to have a say or suggest a film, that’s always open. People who show up to some of the screenings get together and talk about what kind of movies we want to see. You just have to be a little adventurous.”