As we start our second official week of social distancing, I've noticed a void in my life. We all have obviously had a drastic change in our everyday schedules, a lot of us not being able to work or see loved ones, etc, but for someone who has showed up to work at an independent cinema five days a week, the void takes a different shape: though I knew I loved the cinema, I didn't realize how much of my life I allocated to that love, and to the connection of the community within. Now that we have temporarily closed our doors, I find myself still clinging to the old framework, wondering what to expect in the weeks to come. We're all wondering that. If Midtown Cinema has closed its doors, what does that mean in terms of entertainment, or art? Have we lost an integral part of our lives at such an important time? A lot of us will only now begin to realize how much we rely on the outlet that the cinema gave us. We all go to the cinema for various reasons. Some go for the social aspect - you have weekly movie nights, an opportunity to get out of the house and catch up with friends, enjoying a good movie and a chance for discussion. Some go for the escape - there's a lot going on in this world that can be overwhelming or irritating, and sometimes it's nice to put it on hold and get lost in a good story. Film is a fantastic tool for that. It has this uncanny ability to captivate its audience, and open up a new world (which is why it's so important to be able to see a film without distraction, so you don't continuously get thrown in and out of that world!). We flock to the movies in times of trouble and turbulence, hoping that the characters and premises presented onscreen will bring relief and give us something to smile about.
Not only is it a great escape, but it can also help us to process. Maybe during those turbulent times, you don't want to be distracted - maybe you want to figure it out. Seeing a representation of a problem can help us to solve that problem in our own world.
That's the great thing about cinema, and I'm sure you all have experienced this: no matter what you're going through, you can glean a better understanding or perspective from the stories of others.
It's said that you can watch the same movie several times at different points in your life, and get something different from it each time - it's not the content that changes, but us. And that is the beauty of film: its creators are all striving towards that one conclusive moment where the film is done and made and will remain exactly as it is forever, frame by frame... but the film still lives on, through its viewers. Our perspectives, experiences, and worldviews keep the heart of that film beating forever.
Same goes for the cinema. It's not just a building, it's a community, infused with the films that its members have created - passed on from one processing individual to the next, creator to partaker.
And so, we reach this important conclusion: what are we gleaning from these stories now? How are we keeping them alive, how are we interacting with them, and letting them become a part of our narrative?
I can't answer that precisely at the moment. All I know is that, in the next few weeks, that's what I strive to determine. I want to take this time to look at film through a new perspective - the perspective of a global community unified by a strange, important, even terrifying experience. I'll be picking apart various films, reaching deeper into analysis and finding the connecting point of these stories. I hope you'll join me.