March and April are big months for the Regina Public Library Film Theatre. In the wake of the Oscars, they’ve got a flood of winners and nominees coming through, including movies like A Separation, Monsieur Lazhar, My Week with Marilyn, The Artist, Albert Nobbs, and In Darkness, in addition to notable shutouts from the Academy Awards like Shame and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Before all that, though, they’re putting on the Cult and Mysticism Film Festival, featuring seven movies over four days that have found audiences devoted to their unconventionality.

I talked with Belinda New of the RPL Film Theatre about how the festival came together. Note: the one movie that’s being screened but won’t be mentioned as much here is The Room, a fan favourite that I’ll be devoting a post to tomorrow.

Be sure to go to the RPL’s site to look at the festival schedule for yourself. It starts tonight at 7 p.m.

1 PI (1998)
This festival is a joint production with the University of Regina’s Department of Media, Production and Studies. Arrangements like this aren’t new to the RPL Film Theatre; in the past, they’ve worked together to bring in film makers like Guy Maddin and Carl Bessai, among others.

“Our relationship with the University of Regina yields some really great stuff creatively and cinematically for the city,” says New.

This festival started with an idea from U of R professor Christina Stojanova. “She approached me because she was inviting a cult film specialist and a professor at the University of British Columbia, Ernest Mathijs — he’s also an author — to come and speak.”

Together, the three of them chose a selection of cult films, including Pi, the full-length directorial debut of Darren Aronofsky, who would go on to make movies including Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.

(The U of R/RPL connection doesn’t stop here in March; the theatre also has a week of French-language films a couple of weeks from now that’s a co-presentation with Institut français at the U of R.)

2 THE OTHERS (2001)
Narrowing down the field was difficult for New, Stojanova and Mathijs. “We’re only screening seven films and there were hundreds and hundreds of choices. My only regret is that we can only run seven. When I was making my list, I just had way too many titles,” says New.

To arrive at the seven, each chose two films, with all of them then agreeing on The Room as a collective choice.

Stojanova’s picks were Pi and The Others, a film from Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar. According to New, Stojanova’s selections were influenced by the Horror and Mysticism on Film course she’s teaching at the U of R this semester, a class which brought her to bring Mathijs to the city and lead to the creation of this festival.

Mathijs, for his part, chose I Walked with a Zombie and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the latter a film with a reputation I don’t even have to repeat here.

“He wanted something fun and that would get people in, so Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s comedy, a cult comedy.”

New chose Harold and Maude for a similar reason; while it’s a black comedy, it’s still a comedy. She’s not entirely sure why The Man Who Fell to Earth made her list, though.

The Man Who Fell to Earth, I can’t really explain that, even though I chose that.”

David Bowie in a lead role is a big contributing factor, she admits.

I Walked with a Zombie, the oldest film on the list by a good 28 years, is also the most obscure of the lot, at least by my reckoning. New saw a print of the movie at the Berlin Film Festival and can attest to its greatness.

“It’s surprisingly unlike any current zombie movie. Zombies are characterized now by The Walking Dead and the current zombie movies, the blood and the gore. This is like zombies in mysticism. It’s going to be a surprise to most people.

“It’s a really artful zombie movie. I mean, they’re all artful. Let’s face it; you can’t go wrong with a zombie movie. But this one is very beautiful and very strange.”

This comedy tells of an unlikely relationship between a teenager and an elderly woman. In a lot of ways, New’s hopes for the festival aren’t that far off from that experience. “I think we’re going to see a couple generations of filmgoers,” she says.