Movie club the busy person’s alternative to book club

I do love the idea of a book club. My parents have gone to their book club on Sunday nights for years and my friends are always talking about their book club picks or asking advice on what sort of food to bring to meetings. For me however a movie club is a more practical option.

I know myself and my schedule (my to-do list still has items on it from two Christmases ago). If I joined a book club would I ever finish my homework on time? Or would I read the first few chapters and flip through the book on the day of the meeting and try to absorb key points (like I did with Hamlet in high school — and still got 85 per cent on my essay thank you very much) just enough to fake it through a discussion which largely defeats the purpose of a book club?

Apparently I’m not the only one harbouring these thoughts. A few months ago I was on the receiving end of a mass e-mail from an equally busy friend suggesting Movies that Matter as our new lazy and/or busy person’s alternative to book club. The arrangement: once a month we go see a documentary then go out for eats drinks and discussion afterward and no one has to clean up their house or cook or anything. Movie club is like a free ticket out the door when you have a spouse and kids. Plus the theatre has a cash bar. Works for me.

The films that are chosen for the monthly screenings of Movies that Matter don’t have heroes or sidekicks multimillion-dollar budgets or blockbuster soundtracks. The feature-length documentaries come from the film festival circuit or theatrical release and cover issues of culture politics and art stimulating actual thought. Afterward there is a post-screening discussion for those who want to stay and ask questions during which the organizers get the director on speaker phone or bring in someone from the community known for their expertise on the subject.

On our first Monday night of movie club about eight of us met in the lobby of the Engineered Air Theatre at the Epcor Centre for Performing Arts deposited our coats and then collected our gin and tonics beer and Baileys before going in. (The theatre can be tricky to find; it’s just inside the Ninth Ave. S.E. entrance to the Epcor Centre just west of Macleod Trail.) Once inside the 185-seat theatre arranged with rows of waiting-room-style (ie. not attached to the floor) seats we braved our way up front to watch 1000 Journals a film that documents San Fran artist “Someguy” as he distributes a thousand blank journals in random public places inscribed with the message: “This is an experiment and you are part of it. Add anything you like and then pass it on.” (After the movie and a chat with the director it was announced that a similar journal project would be launched here in Calgary. One hundred blank journals will be dispersed around the city so watch out for one and pass it on.) After the movie we went for drinks mussels and French onion soup down the street at Divino. So far I was really liking movie club.

Our second film Secrecy explored the world of national security and the cost of government secrets. It combined interviews with intelligence workers and victims of U.S. national security policies with animated segments. Afterward we found ourselves a small private room complete with mock fireplace and (real) bookshelves at the James Joyce pub on Stephen Avenue and discussed politics and secrets (not so much related to the film as our own) over Strongbow and Irish potato nachos.

There are few decisions to be made at our movie club; no quibbles over which novel to read next no juggling of schedules to determine whose house to meet at next. So far our only debates have been over where to go afterward. Luckily there are plenty of choices nearby.

For details about upcoming screenings at Movies that Matter as well as past screenings visit their website at www.moviesthatmatter.org .

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