the Art House Film Club: A book club without books

Before my Bar Mitzvah, I was taught the Torah as truth, and instilled with a ready-made mythology that I later rejected as illogical. In my 20’s, as a software developer, I was initiated into a mostly atheist community and culture that rejected religion and spirituality as unscientific and inconsistent with our day to day view of reality founded on boolean logic. But yet, this community was obsessed with science fiction. We would all suspend our disbelief, watch Aldebaran loudly explode even though science says sound cannot travel through a vacuum. We’d watch characters in a galaxy far, far away converse in fluent English (protagonists in American English and the evil Empire with British accents) and leave the theater with our world views permanently altered. While we were poking fun at charlatans bending spoons via telekinesis, Luke Skywalker failing to lift his fighter from the marsh resonated deeply for most of us. In essence, by denying that the human brain is hardwired for mythology, we were subjected to a contemporary version of a timeless mythology, but had lost consciousness and agency over this profoundly important foundation of human psychology. With this observation, I stopped rejecting religion as nonfactual, and stopped dismissing film as fiction. The truth lies somewhere in between. Our brains are hardwired for mythology, and film fills the void where more traditional mythologies fail to resonate.

But most science fiction of the era was progressive: Star Trek invented doors that open automatically, hand-held communication devices, and many technologies that became reality. More importantly, we saw people of different genders, races and even species who had moved beyond nationality, war, class and even money and worked together to explore space motivated by curiosity and compassion. Protagonists in Star Trek leveraged the “prime directive” to overcome an ethical challenge in almost every episode. This also became reality as shows like this deeply affected the world view of those who watched it. Contemporary science fiction trends to the dystopian, featuring alien invasions as a metaphor for xenophobia, authoritarian governments, corrupt anti-heroes and apocalyptic scenarios that will eventually become reality if this becomes the new mythology of it’s large audience.

But more important than the moral systems that these mythologies instill in us, either consciously or unconsciously, we have unlearned how to be challenged emotionally and spiritually by the underlying mythologies presented through film. The same way that social media algorithms re-enforce our unconscious political and intellectual biases, limit debate, and polarize us by spoon feeding confirmation bias affirming “alternative facts”, Netflix and other streaming services use recommendation algorithms to make sure that we have a constant stream of content that conforms to our emotional and spiritual baseline without ever challenging us to leave our comfort zone. This leaves us emotionally and spiritually stunted, like a traveler with no passport.

The mandate of the Art House Film Club is to break free from the recommendation algorithms and content crafted to reach a specific target market. This club will foster community around films that will challenge you, show you what is possible on film, and introduce you to film makers that will set you on a journey of discovery that might otherwise not be possible. The club will be hosting regular viewing parties in Toronto and providing links to watch online and post comments on the films we recommend.

If you are interested in joining the club or learning more, visit https://www.arthousefilmclub.com/

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