by Alia Tawil


Film Forum:
Independent films for independent minds

“The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.” -Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959)

The woman in front of you slouches low in her seat, her loose ponytail dangling precariously above your knees. An eclectic group of excited college students squeeze past her to claim their second-row seats. The lights are already dim as the crowd tittering with anticipation settles in. A final peel of laughter punctuates the din as the lights finally go out and a reverent hush colors the moment in the dark. The screen lights up without ceremony or previews to illuminate the title of Werner Herzog’s recent documentary, The White Diamond (2003).

So goes another evening at NYC’s own Film Forum. The only independently operated nonprofit movie house in New York City, Film Forum’s line-up brings new films to the public and new audiences to classic films. The forum began in 1970 with a few folding chairs, a minimal budget, and a vision of exposure for independent films. After some moving around and intense fund raising, the forum has grown to a $4 million annual operation. With its very own theater built on West Houston in the heart of the West Village, the theater has three screens each seating approximately 150 patrons.

Characterized by their quality films, the Forum’s directors maintain a rigorous selection process when assembling their calendar of screenings. Visiting international festivals and keeping up to date on the changing trends in the film industry ensure the forum’s repertoire has some of the most pertinent and original works of our time. This summer season, the forum has assembled a set of programming entitled Paramount Before the Code. A special four week event of double features, this series draws from Paramount Studios’ vault from the early 1930’s.

With such names as Marlene Deitrich, Cary Grant, and the unparalleled Mae West, these films offer a glimpse into America’s movie history before Hollywood imposed more strict moral guidelines on the racy material America was watching. Whether shielded in the plot or spread out in the dialogue, this zany, funny, and glamorous era of movies is best seen in movie venues like this one. Only through an organization like Film Forum will many of these graceful films be revived on the big screen. For an evening of movie magic, follow up on Mae West’s offer to Cary Grant from She Done Him Wrong, “Come up and see me sometime.”

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