Not your average movie night

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Muriel Lucas wants you to watch something new.

“I’m always looking for something different [to show]said the Portland-based movie buff and event planner. “Something…that speaks to people, that they may have never seen before.”

Lucas is the creator of Church of Film, an ongoing film screening event that is currently showing at the Clinton Street Theater. Church of Film features films that strongly feature the weird and bizarre, elements of the supernatural, the occult, countercultural romances, and other avant-garde themes. Many of the films featured represent voices from marginalized perspectives, voices that the industry’s distribution system may have ignored.

“[I] look for cinema that has been overlooked, pushed aside,” Lucas said. “World cinema, political cinema, arthouse cinema…things that have been overlooked by the distribution process.”

Church of Film shines a light on these underrepresented films and creates a space to give them the exposure Lucas thinks they deserve.

In many cases, films introduced by Lucas have been cut or even under-produced because of distributors. Due to the nature of the film production industry, many projects simply cannot access financing because film distributors refuse to accept upfront distribution guarantees. While films manage to access capital, they often fail to reach a wider audience due to a lack of support from distributors. Lucas’ mission is to change that.

“I think people should be able to explore cinema on their own, [to find] what saves them,” Lucas said.

Church of Film offers an opportunity to do this by bypassing the established collection of classic films dictated by distribution companies and shining a spotlight on film creators who have been underrepresented instead.

“I really want to break that kind of capitalist control,” Lucas said. “I wanted to see more things shown.”

Through Church of Film, Lucas hopes to expand the number of perspectives available and challenge the outdated orthodoxy of established classic films. In Lucas’ view, exposing audiences to a diverse set of perspectives and dialogues is essential to understanding film as an art form.

“Marginal cinema will expose you to other voices,” Lucas said. “If other voices are allowed to speak…things can become much more diverse, ideologically, intellectually, emotionally.”

Lucas’ personal drive to make Church of Film a reality stems from a lifelong love of the art of cinema, as well as a fascination with the frontier.

“I was always kind of a person who explored the margins of things and really got involved in finding different outside things,” Lucas explained. In a way, Church of Film is Lucas’ attempt to bring these fringe discoveries to a wider audience, who might never have encountered these insights otherwise.

Lucas is also heavily influenced by Spanish surrealist poet and artist Federico García Lorca, who created a mobile theater that traveled the Spanish countryside in the 1930s, showing performances to people who otherwise would not have had access to it.

The project, called “La Barraca”, was run on an entirely voluntary basis and existed solely to provide unlimited access to thoughtful entertainment. In the democratic spirit of García Lorca’s theater, Church of Film makes it a point of honor to be accessible to all, and admission is on the basis of a donation that does not refuse anyone for lack of funds.

In addition to promoting and presenting diverse perspectives, Lucas’ goal is to create a memorable cinematic experience, one that stems from a genuine love of cinema.

“I wanted to break it down to the basics of what cinema is,” Lucas explained. “Do you like the picture?”

Church of Film is ongoing, but will have upcoming screenings January 16-19.

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