Reality bites back

The Bell is the place to go for nonfiction film

Claire Joseph

To maintain the status of “pioneer,” it’s necessary to forge through the mainstream and create a path that is both new and improved, raising the standards in one’s field.

Forty-three years ago, the University Film Society set a precedent in local film culture as the first film exhibitor in the area to show exclusively art films. Since then, other local theaters have followed. Two years ago, Oak Street Cinema and the University Film Society came together under the name Minnesota Film Arts. The group’s administrator, Adam Sekuler, said the joining of the two nonprofit theaters allowed them to increase opportunities for various grants.

Under its new designation, the group was able to maintain its status as a premier art-film house while creating a more financially stable organization.

Now, looking forward to the cinematic possibilities ahead, the University Film Society branch of the group has changed its name to The Bell and is ready to pioneer anew.

The Bell will be the first exhibitor in the country to show documentaries exclusively. As Sekuler puts it, “it’s going to be all documentaries, all the time.”

With the recent documentary craze, fueled most notably by the films “Bowling for Columbine,” “Spellbound,” “Winged Migration,” “Super Size Me” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” the organization has made the decision to accommodate and enhance its viewers’ interests.

Additionally, Sekuler said, the boundaries between documentaries and other genres are becoming less definite. They have become much more “artsy” and, as most of the films listed above, they are often vehicles for activism. This activism allows viewers to learn more about the world around them and the opinions of others. Sekuler also points out that by learning about other people’s views, film-goers will “learn a lot more about themselves.”

This October, The Bell will start its all-documentary future by featuring eight political documentaries. The first two films are “Hijacking Catastrophe” and “Howard Zinn: You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train.”

Through this new program, Minnesota Film Arts and The Bell are continuing to pioneer innovative film opportunities for the community.