C/O Westdale Cinema

The Westdale’s Film Talks invites people to remember the power of classic films through the Movies that Mattered and World Cinema Masterworks film series 

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the way we view film — microwave popcorn and Netflix have become staples to replace the in-person theatre experience, as countless release dates were pushed back and many major theatrical releases moved online. Now reopening its doors after extended closures, The Westdale is welcoming moviegoers back to the theatre and bringing magic back to classical movies with their new Film Talks series.

Located at 1014 King Street West in the heart of Westdale Village, the not-for-profit theatre is now back to running at full capacity after the most recent changes to provincial health guidelines.

The Westdale is excited to invite people back to partake in the communal film-watching experience. Neal Miller, The Westdale’s executive director, is glad they can be back to being a stage and a staple within the Hamilton community, where people can come to share in their mutual love of film and the arts.

“Movies are great to watch at home — they’re very convenient, you can press pause to use the restroom or let the dog out, but you can’t deny that something happens when you view [a movie] together, communally. You experience [the movies] in a different way when you hear other people laugh, take a deep breath or cry,”

Neal miller

Film Talks is a new series at The Westdale, where a selection of classic films are screened with a discussion and critical analysis of the film included as part of admission. Film Talks was born from the COVID-19 pandemic, when the theatre was in search of a way to move their operations to a virtual format. 

“As soon as COVID hit in March of 2020, we understood that we didn’t have a venue anymore, so what we did was come up with Film Talks. We did them at first on Facebook live, where we selected a film, usually a classic, and then we would have [a film expert] talking,” explained Miller.

Given the success of Film Talks in a virtual space, The Westdale expanded the film series to include local filmmakers and artists though a Canadian originals series, as well as film noir and Christmas classics series. From Pulp Fiction to Lord of the Rings, the Film Talks series has a variety of films to choose from.

Film Talks now runs every Sunday at The Westdale, hosted by Fred Fuchs and Jeff Bender in discussions about the impact of films on the film industry and society. Fuchs is an independent film and television producer who hosts “Movies that Mattered,” a series in which he discusses films known for challenging audiences’ perspectives on topics such as sexism, racism, classism and xenophobia. Bender, a volunteer at The Westdale and film enthusiast, hosts “World Cinema Masterworks,” a series which highlights the work of international filmmakers.

“If you haven’t seen the movie before, I welcome people to come to the Westdale’s beautiful heritage theatre and experience something new for the first time. Share your ideas, your first instinct, your first thought or your first emotion. For those who have watched the movies years and years ago, take an inventory of how you feel seeing it the second or third or fifth time . . . It’s where it hits you in the heart and in the brain,” said Miller.

Whether it’s your first or fifth time experiencing a classic film, The Westdale invites people to come with an open mind and engage with the classics. From crane shots to sweeping soundtracks and important ideas, Film Talks is an opportunity to share and reflect on the power of cinema with a community of cinephiles. 

The majority of the Film Talks showings are movies that can no longer be found on the big screen. The theatre invites students and community members to engage in film history, to talk, discuss, listen and share in the experience of watching good movies.

“The reception has been really excellent. We’ve gotten really good attendance and people are just happy to be out and having discourse in public [and] meeting with others . . . Get out and experience as much as you can, because you never know when you just have to stay home for two years. We all took for granted going to see a comedy show or a concert and then it got taken away. Time is fickle, so come out and experience something live and in-person,” said Miller.

The Westdale is operating in accordance with all provincial health guidelines. Moviegoers are required to reserve seating in advance of the screening and vaccine passports are currently required to enter the establishment. The theatre is also thoroughly cleaned between showings.

Moviegoers are invited to come with an open mind and experience the classics on the big screen once again. Now back as a Hamilton community staple, the Westdale’s Film Talks is a reminder of the power of film to change your perspective on the world. 

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