Starlight Cinema, the Wisconsin Union Directorate's 35-year-old avant-garde/experimental film series, is kaput. The WUD Film Committee is discontinuing it along with the rest of its series, including Real to Reel (its middling documentary series), International Cinema (maddeningly spotty) and Midnight Movies, all of which called the Memorial Union's Fredric March Play Circle home. The committee will still show movies, but no longer break them into series.
The film committee's director, UW junior Patrick Callan, maintains that the committee will retain the same programming, "if not better programming, because now we [won't be] forced into the rigid structure of series."
The now-former Starlight director, senior Reo Fordecor, sees the situation differently. "This sounds appealing," he says of the change, "but it definitely shuts out the Starlight crowd. It leaves a hole."
Callan says, to the contrary, that he thinks "it is very important to have experimental programming - and we still will. As long as there are people on the committee next year interested in devoting their time for this programming there will not be a void." But the scuttling of a dedicated experimental series means there's no guarantee.
WUD Film will move permanently to the new Union South in fall 2011, after which the Play Circle will close, along with Wisconsin Union Theater, as Memorial Union undergoes renovations. That can only be good news for campus filmgoers. The Play Circle is an inadequate venue for screening films, what with its stiff seats, crummy screen-to-front-row proximity and second-rate sound system. It certainly was an inadequate venue for exhibiting complex experimental works such as Ross Nugent's Spillway Study/Carpe Diez, a hybrid film/performance that requires three 16mm projectors to run simultaneously (it dazzled attendees last Thursday night at Starlight's wonderfully varied final program).
The WUD Film Committee has long seemed mostly uninterested in bringing the most challenging or otherwise buzz-worthy contemporary films to Madison, instead showing films already seen here like The Cove and (500) Days of Summer (a recent exception was the Romanian film Police, Adjective). This may be because the brightest programming minds on campus are instead involved with UW's consistently excellent Cinematheque program at Vilas Hall.
In the new era, maybe WUD Film will give UW students one screening of, say, acclaimed indie and foreign films like Beeswax, 35 Shots of Rum or The Headless Woman for every three or four midnight screenings of Shaun of the Dead and other uninspired mainstream fare. Beeswax, 35 Shots of Rum and The Headless Woman screened at UW-Milwaukee's Union Theatre in the past year; none screened here.