Culture | Is Blue Sunshine setting? Not yet

Independent cinema’s future may be uncertain, but its dedication to movie culture isn’t

Tucked away above bustling St. Laurent, Blue Sunshine, Montreal’s premiere “Psychotronic Film Centre,” is a safe haven for all types of film aficionados. Owned by Dave Bertrand and Kier-La Janisse, the small film studio is a labour of love, a sanctuary for film lovers looking to experience all types of cinema, from the independent to the totally bizarre. Blue Sunshine recently celebrated their one-year anniversary by screening the 1978 cult horror film Blue Sunshine from which the space takes its name. Attendees were joined by special guest Jeff Lieberman, who directed the cult classic.
Blue Sunshine is a small theatre club that requires a free membership to view screenings, which vary in cost and start at $8. It’s a space for like-minded people to hang out and enjoy good, weird movies. Bertrand and Janisse focus on playing obscurities that have never been previously released in North America. They try to connect film-goers with both North American and international rarities. Most recently, the Dastardly Diabolikal Super Kriminals series featured freaky villains from all parts of the world. The tastes of the members and the owners are extremely varied so they try to show a bit of everything. These films are not from corporate movie stores like Blockbuster or HMV. Blue Sunshine prides itself on using a projector to show original 16 millimeter prints, enabling patrons to experience something outside the cineplex.
Programming on Thursday through Sunday follow specific themes. Thursdays feature music-oriented films, ranging from recorded concerts of Nina Simone to Punk Rock cult films. Fridays show a mixture of trash, cult, and horror, and, on Saturdays, you can experience art house, independent, and avant-garde films. Ultimately, Blue Sunshine’s goal is to introduce something different to their members via a variety of materials that branch beyond cult to something they have not experienced before. Each screening is a unique experience due to the atmosphere and audience. It is a private, intimate setting that incites discussion, and viewers are encouraged to become immersed in the screening, focusing on not just the film, but also its cultural relevance. It takes the best aspects of a film festival, packs it into an intimate venue, and spreads the films year round.
Yet Blue Sunshine’s reach extends past Montreal. Recently, the screening of George Mihalka’s 1980 film Pinball Summer sparked renewed interest in the film, causingpopularity of the film’s soundtrack. There was so much interest in the film and its music that the composer and director (who traveled from Toronto) decided to come to visit Blue Sunshine for a Q&A session. All the enthusiasm surrounding the film and its music convinced them to re-release the soundtrack.
Over the past year, interest in the venue has been small but substantial. Blue Sunshine’s size restricts promotion, so word of mouth has been vital for garnering attention from the community. There is an unfortunate shortage of repertory theatres in Montreal, which is why Blue Sunshine’s following continues to grow. Despite its relative success, Blue Sunshine’s future is uncertain. The financial reality of running a small independent film centre makes it difficult for Bertrand and Janisse to determine how much longer they can last. In an interview with the Daily, Bertrand explained how “a venue like this is not realistically sustainable forever,” yet the owners and members would like to see it run as long as possible. For now, Blue Sunshine will screen films as usual, and function as a venue for POP Montreal’s upcoming Film POP segment at the end of September.
Even though Blue Sunshine is more a labour of love than a realistic source of income for Bertrand and Janisse, the project offers the best of all possible worlds for film-lovers. Its small size and affordability enables an intimate atmosphere that creates a common ground for the owners, the patrons, and, at times, the artists themselves. There are opportunities to get involved, or you can go by and check it out: new members are always welcome. Even with winter fast approaching, Montreal’s movie lovers will have a place to catch some sun–for now.


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