While driving to work the other day, I was listening to Metro Morning on the CBC and a discussion as to why we cannot actively and cognitively remember moments from our childhood – primarily our toddler years. As host Matt Galloway, reflected on his first active memory of his brother being born, it immediately struck me that my first real memory from my childhood, is of sitting in a movie theatre with my family. The film, a pre-cursor to Roger Rabbit, was the Disney classic Pete’s Dragon. I must have been four years old – but to this day I still remember the sense of awe in seeing a giant green cartoon dragon on the huge screen in front of me. The average screen in 1984 was much smaller than today’s multiplex – but it was still IMAX in stature. The movie magic felt incredibly real as the animated dragon interacted with live action characters. I remember anxiously moving around in my seat, the smell of the popcorn, and the celebration in knowing that we were at the movies. This was a big deal – going to the movies was an event.
This memory also ignited a reflection as to why I love movies. To say I am a film buff is limiting. Studying, appreciating and making movies are part of me – and I have already begun to share this passion with my three – year daughter and my eleven – month old son. From our movie nights to the production of short films using the iPhone, the experience and practice of watching and making is emotionally encompassing. Looking back on my childhood, movies like Back to the Future, Bettlejuice, Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and anything with Schwarzenegger or Stallone were my babysitters growing up – scary but I was an 80s baby and such domestic bliss was a norm. I would re-write movies as comics of short stories for school or act out my favourite scenes. Creativity was undeniably ignited.
I obsessed about making movies in high school, I went to both College and University to study film theory and production, and my teaching specialization is Communications Technology which is grounded in my active film production experience. Film, new media and the ability to tangibly create and share something that is layered in connotative meaning excites me incredibly. So, what does my early memory say about why film matters to me – and perhaps matters to so many people. It is the experience.
The experience of going to the movies is completely social – the privilege of coming together in a safe and shared space, where a collective of diverse people become startled, are bored, cry or applaud in pleasure at the screen. Nothing –including Netflix or iTunes can beat it.
Perhaps, the one thing that is missing is the intellectual discourse. Movies, whether it is Captain American: The Winter Solider or 12 Years a Slave speak to our lived and shared experience. As such, film in its very practice is rooted in the signification of social, cultural and political meaning. This is the origin and importance of genre study. It is with this, that for many movie goers, film is merely an artefact of entertainment. Fortunately, it can be and is so much more. At a time with theater chains such as Cineplex are piloting reserved seating in select theatres, the inclusion of a “film talk” after a show would be enriching and compelling. Perhaps, this would make the experience even more social and meaningful.
In the end it is amazing how one conversation about memory, like film itself, can generate deeper conversation and meaning.