Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Loft at Festival of Books!

I can't be the only one surprised by the very existence of the Festival of Books.

A festival...for books? In 2010? In Tucson? And attended by tens of thousands, no less. All of this at a time when Americans are reading fewer books each year and as the nation's publishing industry reels from the upheaval of traditional business models by an ever-shifting technological landscape. So it was heartening to see so many Tucsonans and out-of-town bibliophiles descend on the University of Arizona's campus for a two-day tribute to the written word. I'm proud to have taken part in the proceedings as both volunteer and patron.

Of course, as one waggish gentleman pointed out, I was there representing The Loft Cinema. Film prints, not the printed page, are our stock in trade. But as ambassadors representing the theatre's contribution to Tucson's rich, international, and multiple-perspective culture, we were right at home alongside the booksellers, educators, and activists. This view was upheld by a surprising source, an author who generously gave me and my fellow volunteer, Peggy Springer, a copy of her book, "Dieppe Crossing." The novel, written by Betty McLane-Iles, a professor of French at Truman State University, is set during the tumultuous years of French resistance during the Spanish Civil War, continuing through the Occupation of France, and into the present day. She and her husband, also a writer and educator, stopped by our booth just before leaving the Festival. It was her husband who inscribed the novel with words that beautifully encapsulate exactly why The Loft is such a vital part of contemporary Tucson.

He wrote: "The only way, sometimes, Americans ever learn to value other cultures is via global cinema like [films shown at] The Loft."

Whether you subscribe to this particular contention or not is ultimately less important than Mr. Iles' recognition that The Loft provides our community with an ongoing opportunity to enjoy those films that are too often ignored or marginalized by theatre chain conglomerates with a prevailing interest in mainstream, homogeneous, and risk-free presentations. The films that play at The Loft, in contrast, give voice to the concerns of locals, minority groups, and artists working with difficult subject matter. From the guiltily delicious lowbrow scuzz of Mondo Mondays to ballet and opera presentations in high-def, The Loft presents a complex, multifaceted, impossible-to-pigeonhole portrait of the world we live in, and therefore a truer one. Also, we sell popcorn.

See you at the movies!

Mike Hughes
Loft Volunteer

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