Debacle of Debauchery part two

The Student Activities Office peered out from behind its ivory tower of incompetence.

Adri Mehra

So, what’s next for renegade student group Trash Film Debauchery? Will the Student Activities Office finally come around and recognize the value of alternative cinema shown free on campus?

TFD founder Theresa Kay simply wanted to do the right thing and not be a cinema vigilante ripe for a federal copyright lawsuit, as broadcast-licensing fees must be paid prior to public showings. Not simple enough? Maybe she wanted to avoid the possibility of a year in prison and a $100,000 donation to a law firm of her choice. Instead of helping her, the SAO took back her tiny room in Ford Hall on Friday nights and shut her down.

Not to be discouraged, the irrepressible Kay has already met with the events coordinator of the Minnesota Film Arts regarding a “midnight movie” slot for TFD at the fantastic Oak Street Cinema in Stadium Village. A new schedule of 35mm prints is already in the works starting the first Friday in November. It is wonderful, but more than a trifle sad that a small nonprofit has to step to the plate while the billion-dollar behemoth starves the art off the island.

The bright side? No longer does anyone have to stand in the back corner against the walls, or on top of each other, just to watch the damn movies, let alone squint at the subtitles. If she chooses, Kay gets to withdraw her group and kiss off into the sun.

After a week of bad press, the SAO has tentatively peered out from behind its ivory tower of incompetence and offered a joint arrangement with MPAC or Gophers After Dark, but in my modest opinion, this is sending in the quarterback on Monday morning. You’re a little late, guys.

Hopefully, TFD’s wet dream comes true – free Friday night features at the West Bank auditorium, with the über-cheap indie copyright costs covered by student fees. And that is in addition to its new arrangement with the Oak Street Cinema.

So TFD gets shut down for basically not giving in to the hackneyed Hollywoodian aesthetic, but a registered student group called “Christian Soldiers” gets to go on trumpeting its message (or lack thereof) unmitigated, or – worse yet – encouraged?

In an era of elitist, neo-conservative penny-pinching that is rapidly reaching Beckettian levels of absurdity; it is always the brave and wayward muses who get lanced first. Friends, it does not bode well for our cultural viability when we can fart out focus group after focus group to come up with a quarter-billion dollars to build a temple to physical brutality (a football stadium), but we can’t even give a single cent to Crisis Point, the oldest theater group on campus, to continue its mission of providing for performance art majors.

Whether or not you find films that don’t feature Reese Witherspoon tasteless and depraved, we are living in dangerous times when the ability and capacity to experience alternatives to crass commercialism are curtailed. Yesterday, an independent theater on campus. Today, film. What goes to the chopping block tomorrow? Music? Civil liberties?

“It seems like everything that makes this campus unique is under constant threat of annihilation,” said Taylor Stevenson, recent cinema studies graduate and Trash Film Debaucher extraordinaire. “I mean, call me crazy, but I like to be exposed to new things. Isn’t that why people go to college?”

I think he’s right.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]