It had the worst seats in town, but we will still miss it

National Film Board Theatre closes down

Those of us who used to attend screenings at the National Film Board (NFB) theatre at the corner of St.Denis and de Maisonneuve never said anything good about its seats.Their weird design always gave you the impression that they were about to collapse each time

Sergio Martinez

Special that you sat on them.Well, those awfully designed seats are just a memory now that the NFB has closed its downtown facilities.The last show at the NFB theatre featured some of the documentaries presented by the Montreal World Film Festival. Despite the seats however, the closing of the NFB CinéRobothèque as the whole complex containing individual viewing stations, two cinemas,a movie library,and a boutique was called, is a great loss for Montreal and for film lovers.The NFB facilities became a casualty to the cuts announced last April by the federal government in its budget. In the case of the NFB the cuts amounted to almost 7 million dollars or about 10 percent of the budget allocated by Parliament to the film agency. Last June, after the NFB announced the closing of its downtown location there were some protests, letters were sent to the government and even some attempts to save the place were mentioned although they never materialized. A peaceful occupation of the complex in which two well known Montreal filmmakers took part, Philippe Falardeau and Paule Baillargeon plus a human chain around the block where the theatre was located also took place.Unfortunately none of those actions made the NFB management change its mind:as scheduled on September 3 the NFB CinéRobothèque closed its doors for good.If there is any consolation for Montreal the same fate suffered a similar facility located in Toronto, the NFB Mediatheque. An important clarification in case that someone wants to present this as an attack on the country's main francophone city or on Quebec culture, the truth is that when it comes to dismantling cultural institutions and activities this government applies an "equal opportunity clause": both French and English are equally affected. I don't know whether the cuts are also affecting the updating of the NFB's web site, because last time I checked right before I wrote this article, on that site you could still read: "In the heart of Canada's two largest cities, the NFB's downtown centres are open to the public. Montreal's CinéRobothèque and Toronto's Mediatheque are at the cutting edge of technology and provide a complete cinematic experience: workshops, individual viewing stations, screenings and special events, as well as opportunities for young people to develop their media skills." In fact both facilities are now closed, although the NFB has taken some steps to keep providing some service to the public as indicated on line:"As of October 2012, the NFB's film collection, including titles that were available exclusively at the CinéRobothèque, will be available again via viewing stations.The general public, as well as researchers, teachers and students, are all welcome." This service will be offered free of charge, by appointment,at the NFB headquarters, Reference Library,3155 Côte-de- Liesse Road,Ville Saint Laurent. The new location will not be as easily accessible for most Montrealers as its previous central location was, but at least it is something,after all it is not the NFB the one to blame for the CinéRobothèque's demise but the cuts inflicted on it by the government.The passionate statement made by local filmmaker Philippe Falardeau in June still resonates while we witness the dismantling of the NFB facilities: "Tell me what agency in the world has won so many awards in the world as the NFB? What agency has had so many documentaries and short films nominated for an Oscar?We're talking here 72 nominations! I have been nominated but I didn't win (for his movie "Monsieur Lazhar").The NFB has won 12 Oscars over all these years!" Comment on this article at: www.westendtimes.ca

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* SEPTEMBER 22, 2012 7

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