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Movie movement
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Movie movement

Late last week, as the long Memorial Day weekend beckoned with its seductive twofold promise of an extra unscheduled day plus the unofficial start of summer, a neighbor and I considered a movie as one way to enjoy the extra free time.

By chance we’d discovered that Young @ Heart was playing at a movieplex in Hinesville, and made tentative plans to see this recently-released documentary about a senior citizens chorale that performs arrangements of 60’s and 70’s rock songs. The film’s reviews have been favorable, and I’m told that the chorus has been featured on the Tonight Show.

Either the online movie schedules were in error or we found out about the movie too late. By Friday, all traces of Young @ Heart had vanished from southeast Georgia.

Although the idea of Robert Downey, Jr. as a superhero is a mindbender, I am looking forward to seeing Iron Man, my second choice for a movie outing. Working this major studio release into my schedule should be no problem since at press time it was playing in three of the six theaters in town.

The Savannah metro area seems to have an ideal collection of ingredients to support a varied menu of film options. Earlier this month, the Cindigenous Film Event was standing-room-only at the 220-seat Jepson Center auditorium for the screening of four locally produced short films. Each fall, the Savannah Film Festival fills the Trustees and Lucas Theaters day and night for a week and a half, screening dozens of foreign films, documentaries, soon-to-be-released feature films and student films. At the 2007 festival, we were privileged to see The Kite Runner even as controversy was swirling around the film at the national level, delaying its official release.

These days, not one, not two, but three locally-based independent film organizations work throughout the year to bring us films that have passed by our community. This year, films like the documentary King Corn, sponsored by Reel Savannah, and the Academy Award-nominated I’m Not There, sponsored by Psychotronic Film Society, have blown through town for one-night-only, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it screenings.

In June, these two groups, plus the Savannah Film Society, will be at it again, bringing three well-respected and diverse films to town for the cinematically-starved among us.

My Name Is Albert Ayer will screen at the Jepson on June 5, marking the first time the Psychotronic Film Society has partnered with this venue. The late jazz musician Albert Ayer was “not very well known except in very esoteric jazz circles” says Jim Reed, the man behind the Psychotronic series (as well as Connect music editor). “His music was rooted in his very personal spiritual beliefs. He looked at music not so much as a commercial vocation but as more of a higher calling.”

Reed hopes that this film will launch a partnership between Psychotronic and the Jepson to screen “critically acclaimed documentaries about some form of contemporary art, whether it’s film or music or painting.”

For film watchers yearning for nostalgia, the Savannah Film Society kicks off their summer series of previously-run movies with Sabrina (the 1954 Audrey Hepburn version) on June 14 at the Lucas.

The next night, across town at Victory Square, Reel Savannah will screen The Counterfeiters, which won the Academy Award this year for Best Foreign Film.

These volunteer-run entities are working to fill in the local void of movie-going opportunities, but that status, plus the financial realities of finding places to screen films, results in these movie screenings occurring on a one-time-only basis. If your brother’s bachelor party is the same night as one of these events, well, too bad.

With such a large community of musicians, writers, artist and filmmakers in Savannah, as well as an expanding local cadre of patrons of all ages and tastes, the continuing existence of this gap in our local filmgoing options is not only disappointing, but embarrassing. How else to describe a so-called cultural Mecca that has to solicit private donations to support the screening of a film featuring major motion picture stars and nominated for an Academy Award?

Here’s hoping that national cineplex owners will give Savannah a more eclectic menu of films in the near future.