Back in 2006, beloved Canberra (nay Australia) institution the National Film & Sound Archive was one of few film archives in the world without its own on-site cinema to showcase its extensive and deeply historically important collection of films. Under the then-directorship of Paolo Cherchi-Usai 2007 saw the birth of ARC CINEMA. Under the guidance of David Boden (Manager of Access, Research and Development), Quentin Turnour (Chief Cinema Programmer), Cynthia Piromalli (Assistant Cinema Programmer), Trevor Anderson (Theatre Manager and, I’m told, a man instrumental in Arc’s construction), Reece Black (Chief Projectionist) and Greg Rooke (Projectionist) Arc Cinema has blossomed into an important cultural landmark that hosts a wonderfully eclectic snapshot of human life through film.
At the dawn of 2012, I caught up with the ever-affable Cynthia Piromalli to discover the cinematic sights and sounds we have to look forward to for the year ahead.
“American Movie Treasures is on again in 2012,” Piromalli reveals, “which is a program we run with the support of the Embassy of the United States to bring Canberra audiences classic American cinema from film archives the world over. The first part of the season will be an Elia Kazan retrospective, kicking off with A Streetcar Named Desire outdoors in February then continuing with other classic Kazan titles in March/April and more US director retrospectives later in the year.
“For the warmer months [and we use that term loosely these days] the Arc Outdoors screenings continue every Saturday night in the courtyard with Spinal Tap, Taxi Driver and Monty Python and The Holy Grail. We’ll also be running free Australia Day screenings including rarely seen films from the NFSA Collection including a featurette by Ken G Hall made in 1939 called Gone To The Dogs and a few of shorts in Bonza, Darra Dogs (by Dennis Tupicoff) and Down, Rusty Down by John Curran featuring Noah Taylor and Bob Ellis playing a pack of stray dogs. Plus we’ll have the 2011 box office hit Red Dog.”
The Australian flag will continue to be proudly flown as the year progresses, it seems, including a pleasing look at the world of Melbourne punk in Autoluminescent.
“We’re showing Australian director Ivan Sen's new film Toomelah in an exclusive season during February; the film screened a couple of times at last year's Canberra International Film Festival to packed audiences. And of particular interest to your peeps, I think, is the exclusive season of the new documentary Autoluminescent: Roland S. Howard which is screening from February 3.”
But it’s not all about celluoid from a sunburnt country. Arc Cinema will continue to showcase films old and new from around the world.
“The 2012 Alliance Francais French Film Festival will again be co-hosted at Arc Cinema - including opening and closing nights - from March 14 to April 1,” Piromalli confirms, with news that the full program will be published in just over a fortnight at www.affrenchfilmfestival.org/default.aspx . “We will again be co-hosting the 2012 Canberra International Film Festival in late October/early November,” Piromalli continues, “and we will also be hosting the 2012 Japanese Film Festival in November which always has an excellent line-up of new and classic anime, brilliant action films and incredibly shot dramas from this amazing film culture. Further to this we also hope to bring a regular anime program to Arc this year, with the support of the Embassy of Japan.”
Of course an Arc NFSA program would not be complete without examples of the dawn of cinema, which will be ably demonstrated this year by the Autumn Silents season.
“Now this is where Arc shines!” Piromalli enthuses. “We're one of the few cinemas left in Australia that can run silent film at correct variable speeds with live musical accompaniment. We will be screening rare films from archives around the world, shown as they were originally; as they should be seen. This happens in the first two weeks of March, including some outdoor screenings early in the month.”
All this should have cinephiles suitably salivating for the months ahead. I ask Miss Piromalli if there’s anything else she’d like to add before we part ways.
“That's about as much detail as I can offer, given we have only just programmed until April,” she reveals. “However we can promise - oh yes, promise - our usual year-long fare of exclusive seasons of new films, director retrospectives from around the world showcasing some rarely seen films from some of the best known filmmakers, our regular Sounds On Site program of music documentaries, the old cult title, new and classic Australian cinema every Saturday at 2pm and all with most films shown on - egad! - real film!”
To keep up with Arc Cinema’s terrific program you can sign up for their newsletter for the odd ticket giveaway and trailers of upcoming films at http://www.nfsa.gov.au/arc/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org, search for them on Facebook and Twitter or keep a beady eye on these pages for news.