Brazil's 'Bacurau' Is Part of DGC@Home
Digital Gym Cinema launches streaming options for movies
Media Arts Center San Diego had to cancel its San Diego Latino Film Festival and close its Digital Gym Cinema earlier this month because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, like many arts groups, Media Arts Center is looking to online options.
Creating a virtual cinema
Digital Gym Cinema is now living up to its name as it brings some films from the canceled Latino Film Festival to audiences through digital streaming services. The cinema is officially closed for the time being due to COVID-19 concerns, but it is working with key distributors and studios to provide DGC@Home, a “virtual theater” experience featuring films that would normally play at the festival or the Digital Gym Cinema.
Brazil's "Bacurau" is one of those films. It had been programmed as part of Un Mundo Extraño sidebar at the San Diego Latino Film Festival that was scheduled to begin on March 12, but California Gov. Gavin Newsom's ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people forced the festival to cancel on its opening day.
Additional mandates have led to all cinemas closing and for the first time in history, the U.S. box office reported zero revenues.
Media Arts Center faces financial losses of potentially $200,000 for canceling (or hopefully just postponing) the festival and that hardship is intensified by having to close its Digital Gym Cinema. But arts organizations have to be creative to find new ways to reach audiences.
Media Arts Center Executive Director Ethan Van Thillo said they moved quickly to find new options.
"We were able to find content from distributors like Kino, Film Movement, and Magnolia that already had content online and already had the capabilities to provide it to the movie theaters," he said. "And so we were able to connect. They provide us with individual links where these links are just for our specific movie theater and then each time a person purchases the virtual ticket, a percentage, 50 percent, goes to our independent movie theater. I think everyone needs to understand it’s not business as usual, not just for our non-profit, but for the world around us. So it's not only great for us to be able to provide some opportunity for our patrons to see art-house movies and independent films, but then also importantly to support our non-profit during this time of crisis."
Brazil's surreal 'Bacurau' film available
"Bacurau," directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho, follows a young woman named Teresa back to her grandmother's village in a near-future Brazil. She has come to attend her grandmother's funeral but increasingly strange and sinister things start to happen. A water truck returns with inexplicable bullet holes, strangers suddenly appear at the remote village, cell phones stop working, and it appears the village has disappeared off Google maps.
The film bears some similarity to the recent Hollywood film "The Hunt" in terms of pitting a group of elites against poor villagers in an increasingly violent series of confrontations. But "Bacurau" has more on its mind as it explores those cultural and economic clashes, and as it spins more wildly and provocatively out of control. Plus, it has iconic actor Udo Kier in a juicy role and the legendary Sonia Braga.
Other programs go online
In addition to running Digital Gym Cinema and San Diego Latino Film Festival, Media Arts Center also runs other programs such as Teen Producers Project and youth camps. Those too have been suspended and are looking into virtual options.
"We are going online virtually for our education programs," Van Thillo said. "So, our Saturday Teen Producers Project is an intro class and advanced class kids can participate in virtually as well. And then we also have after school programs on Wednesdays and then our youth media and tech camps will be going virtually too. It's going to be a different experience. It can't be the same, but we're going to provide some group settings where we can talk about and teach them how to do certain things and they'll make their own films and videos at home, and then our instructors will be available to communicate with them one on one as well."
But this is all new territory as the organization experiments with different technology. Last Friday, curator Moises Esparza did a watch party.
"Netflix has something called watch parties," Van Thillo explained. "You can download this app and connect it to your Google or Chrome web browser and you can watch, for example, a Netflix movie together as a group. Everyone is like an individual but you're all watching this movie altogether. And then there's a little chat window where you can talk to each other and we had a good number of participants. It was our first time as an experiment. We did this movie, a beautiful movie, called 'Three-Minute Hug' about people getting together for three minutes across the border and seeing their loved ones and family and hugging each other. So we did a virtual hug to all of our patrons via social media. So, if we don't use Netflix Watch Party, we'll use Zoom or we'll use different services where we can have the filmmaker participating in Q-and-A's. Hopefully, attendees and our patrons can get on online and participate as well."
This new way of viewing film means that patrons will likely have to create accounts or sign in to services in order to access a virtual ticket but that is just how filmgoing needs to be for at least a few more weeks and maybe longer.
"Bacurau," along with Poland's Oscar-nominated "Corpus Christi" and three other films are available through Thursday.