COVID-19: Metro Cinema and local Jewish film fest bringing indie cinema to you


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When Metro Cinema skipped five screenings in early March waiting for a projector part, little did they know what was coming their way.

“The week prior to shutting down,” for the COVID-19 pandemic, said Metro’s executive director Dan Smith, “it seemed like a new development every minute, so it was just a matter of trying to keep up. But we realized it was just not a good idea to stay open, it would an unethical thing.”

The art house theatre shut its doors March 16.

But, as Susan Schiffman, coordinator of the Edmonton Jewish Film Festival, notes separately, “Film is a flexible medium, and we are a resourceful lot.” More on her fest in a moment.

As things tightened, the non-profit Metro decided to keep paying its full- and part-time staff of 20 where they could for the time being, a situation where “everyone was figuring out what to do to keep busy and be productive.” Enter indie film distributors.

“Distributors began to get in touch with us with the idea of these virtual screening rooms. They had indie films that were going to get kind of limited release around North America that were now just not going to see any screen time, wanting to find a way to give them a release and to also support local theatres in the process.”

While watching five hours straight of Kingdom on Netfilx has its perks, there’s something to be said for Metro’s rugged and gonzo curatorial voice, worth supporting at $12 a film — which you can think of as a donation with perks.

So far, the non-profit is offering two films to stream on your computer or Smart TV, starting at their website at — Chinese crime epic The Wild Goose Lake and Brazilian weird western Bacurau. “It’s a somewhat apocalyptic view of the world, it’s either the best film or the worst film to watch right now, depending on who you are,” Smith laughs, “ just a fun, weird thriller.”


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More movies will be added to the roster soon.

Meanwhile, a number of local film festivals have already shifted plans.

The documentary-focused NorthwestFest was to run May 7-16. “Trust us when we tell you that we had the biggest and most exciting opening night film announcement in our history ready to share with you, until COVID-19 put the brakes to that,” says program director Guy Lavallee. “But fortunately, we’ve been able to reschedule, as opposed to having to outright cancel, and so we’ll be putting on a NorthwestFest/Rainbow Visions Combo Fest from Nov. 5-15 at Metro Cinema.

“Nov. 5-11 will be NorthwestFest. Thursday, Nov. 12 will be a crossover evening — then it’s Rainbow Visions from Nov 13-15. It’s not a perfect solution, but we’re going to run with it. We are looking at some other options to do a few things virtually, and I hope to have more news on that front within the next few days.”

Back to Schiffman at Edmonton Jewish Film Festival. Her organization decided to show up in our homes next month, free, with help from sponsors. “We made a quick transformation and decided to go virtual. We will show five films, each an Edmonton premiere, and four short films, online, from May 3 to May 7.

“We are working on some virtual pub talks, too, and will announce them soon.”

For Metro Cinema’s regular virtual screenings, director Smith appreciates any help. “We’re Edmonton’s non-profit community cinema. We work with a lot of groups in town to celebrate film, whether it’s indie new release or old retro cinema, hard-to-find foreign language films, guilty pleasure films from your childhood. We’re quite often your own chance to see certain films.


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“Watching these films helps filmmakers, film distributors and of course Metro. It’s a great way to support the whole chain of indie film exhibition.”


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