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STAY-IN THEATER: WHQR and Thalian Hall’s Cinematique goes digital with Sofa Series

The Band had their fair share of ups and downs, as documented in ‘Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band.’ Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures


Cinematique has been entertaining Wilmington for nearly 30 years. The independent film series, presented by a partnership between WHQR Public Media and Thalian Hall, allows the community to watch original cinema in the grandeur of historic Thalian Hall’s theater. Originally presented by WHQR and St. John’s Museum in 1992, Cinematique was the brainchild of Michael Titterton, Anne Brennan (CAM’s now executive director) and Ren Brown. In 1996, it moved to Thalian Hall, after current executive director Tony Rivenbark acquired the necessary equipment (including a screen and a sound system) to show films. The new series launched in January of that year, with a screening of “Gone With the Wind.”

Although the theater-going experience is hard to replicate, current Cinematique coordinator Mary Bradley has  found a way to bring the magic to folks at home with the Cinematique Sofa Series. Going digital has been vital to keeping the popular series afloat during this time of uncertainty. “The idea [to make Cinematique virtual] really just came naturally, as distributors transitioned to offering the films digitally,” Bradley tells. “We were excited to have a way to keep serving our audience.”

The Sofa Series launched on April 3 with a trio of films: “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes,” “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” and “The Whistlers.” All three films are available to rent until April 17.

“The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” also was part of the Cinema Sisters International Film Festival last month (see March 4 edition of encore for coverage). It documents the life of biologist Anne Innis Dagg, who went on a solo journey to South Africa to study giraffes in the wild at age 23. In the film, Dagg, now 83, retraces her steps, and addresses the obstacles she faced in her career as a female scientist.

“Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band” follows the personal journey of influential guitarist Robbie Robertson. Robertson and The Band made their mark on music history, but it didn’t come easy. The documentary shows the emotional ups and downs that come with heavy substance abuse. It also contains rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs and interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Martin Scorsese and others.

“The Whistlers” is a Romanian action flick. The spy thriller centers on corrupt cop Christi, who acts as a whistleblower for the mafia. In order to avoid detection, he must travel to a remote colony, La Gomera in the Canary Islands, to learn an ancestral whistling language that will allow him to continue communicating with mobsters.

Cinematique plans to keep releasing new indie films each week until Thalian Hall’s theater is fully functioning and open to the public once again. “We hope to ‘open’ three films a week (and overlap for a week with the previous three),” Bradley says.

On April 10, they released the gerrymandering documentary “Slay the Dragon,” Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You,” the and fashion doc, “The Times of Bill Cunningham.” The films are available through April 24.

“Slay the Dragon” speaks to the timely issue of democratic principles under siege. A secretive gerrymandering initiative in launched in 2010 and sparks public outrage. Starting with a Facebook post, a small group of passionate individuals in Michigan snowballs into a voter rights movement, “Voters Not Politicians.” Directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance, “Slay the Dragon” shows audiences how determination and zeal can take on a broken system.

“Sorry We Missed You,” directed by Ken Loach, addresses real-life hardships of a family struggling through financial distress. Ricky and his wife Abby lost their home during the 2008 financial crash and risk it all to get their life back on track. When an opportunity comes for Ricky to work as his own boss as a delivery driver, the two sell their only remaining asset—Abby’s car—to purchase a white van. Ricky quickly realizes his dream of owning his own delivery franchise will not come easy, while dealing with an unremitting work schedule, merciless supervisor and the needs of their two teenage children.

A recently discovered six-hour interview from 1994 inspired the 2018 documentary, “The Times of Bill Cunningham.” The doc explores the iconic life of street photographer and fashion historian Bill Cunningham, in his own words. With a very pleasant demeanor, Cunningham expounds on his time as a milliner in France, at the height of the Korean War; his four decades at The New York Times; and his relationship with Jackie Kennedy. He talks about roaming the streets of New York on his bicycle, camera in hand, ready to capture the dynamics of political protests, notable fashion, and the undocumented realities of society. The doc also features photographs chosen from an archive of over 3 million previously unpublished images.

Cinematique’s Sofa Series aims to give Wilmingtonians an outlet for artistic escape at a time where it’s desperately needed. “We hope to offer much of what becomes available from our regular independent film channels,” Bradley says. “Especially now when we’re all looking for something to fill some of our extra time, it’s great to have high-quality, beautiful, moving, challenging, uplifting, emotional, fun and unique films to watch. I love being able to escape into a new world—whether it’s studying giraffes and exploring feminism, traveling into the high-fashion world or spending time with the royals—if just for a couple hours.”

The movies are $12 to rent for five days (though once they hit play, renters have 72 hours to finish). Proceeds raised help keep the program going via Thalian Hall and WHQR. To watch films from the Sofa Series, folks should rent directly from the links found on Thalian Hall and WHQR’s websites. The Cinematique Sofa Series is compatible with computers, smartphones and tablets, and can be cast to Apple TV or Google Chromecast.

Cinematique Sofa Series
$12 for five-day rental


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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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