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Monday Night Film Series offers local access to international cinema

Tony Merzetti may have earned his education in business, but film has always been his true passion.

After graduating from UNB Saint John in 1981 with a business degree, Merzetti soon realized he didn’t want to pursue a career in banking or accounting.

“I chose film for some bizarre reason,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot going on in film in the province [then].”

So Merzetti sought to try to change this by working with the New Brunswick Filmmakers Co-operative. Beginning as a volunteer in the 1980s, he is now the NBFC’s executive director. Since 2005, he has been leading the Monday Night Film Series to diversify local access to cinema.

The Monday Night Film Series began 20 years ago with the aim of bringing to Fredericton the types of arthouse, foreign and Canadian feature films that are not normally screened in larger cinema chains—all on 35mm film. Although they have since switched to digital and the 35mm projectors have been stored, their goal remains the same.

The series starts in September and runs until the end of the April exam period. Each Monday, a box office will be set outside Tilley Hall at 6:15 p.m. and will await the arrival of moviegoers. Even though the movie never starts until 7:30 p.m., the theatre is usually half full by 6:50 p.m.

“For me, the most enjoyable part is the community of people that come out,” said Merzetti.

He says people love the films, and some do not even know what’s playing but show up anyway, trusting that it is always an interesting experience.

This year, the MNFS has already screened three films: The Big Sick, a 2017 US film that follows Pakistan-born Kumail Nanjiani in his pursuit of becoming a stand-up comedian; Tommy’s Honour, a 2016 English historical drama film that depicts the lives and careers of the pioneering Scottish golfing champion Old Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and his son Young Tom Morris (Jack Lowden); finally, Their Finest, a 2016 English romantic comedy set in Britain’s wartime film industry.

Merzetti especially looks forward to the Sept. 25 screening of Pop Aye. The 2017 Singaporean-Thai drama follows a middle-aged architect who encounters his childhood companion—an elephant named Pop Aye—who is about to be put down because he is, according to Merzetti, “old and fat.” The man decides to take the elephant to his hometown and look after him until the end of its days, because “he is old and fat too.” The film follows their journey through rural Thailand to their hometown in Loei Province.

“I mean, where else do you get to see a film like that, except in a film society?” Merzetti said.

Merzetti makes the selection of the films based on a combination of online movie reviews and the Toronto Film Festival’s catalogue of films shown both domestically and abroad—though the selection process can also involve some audience participation.

“Sometimes our members come and ask ‘Have you heard about this film?’ and then I’ll go check it out and [bring it home],” he said.

Merzetti said film is his passion and, since he decided to change career paths, he has contributed to more than 250 films, of which he has directed and written six. In addition to leading the NB Film Co-op, he also teaches film production at UNB.

He advises students to go out and learn about things outside of their immediate field of study.

“A lot of times when you’re a student, you just get immersed right away into your studies,” said Merzetti. “Then you reach the end of your studies and all of a sudden you discover something and go ‘I wish I had known about this years ago. I could’ve gotten involved.’”

 

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