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A Cinematic Breath of Fresh Air: South Bay Film Society lands Stephen Farber’s “Reel Talk”

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Director Rob Reiner and film critic Stephen Farber at the “Reel Talk” screening earlier this year of “The Magic of Belle Isle.”

The acclaimed film series, “Reel Talk with Stephen Farber, is headed to the South Bay starting January 30, and will run for four consecutive Wednesdays through February 20 with screenings at 7 p.m. Tickets are on sale, and they will go fast.

Movie-goers who attend “Reel Talk with Stephen Farber” see exciting and often thought-provoking independent and foreign films before their public release. Each screening is followed by a discussion with filmmakers and film critics. Farber is the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and a writer for many national publications. He’s been hosting and producing “Reel Talk” for the last decade at venues such as the Wadsworth Theatre.

How did this come about? Through the persistence – and magic touch – of Randy Berler, founder of the South Bay Film Society.

Several months ago, Berler was contacted by Carol Pleatman, who had for years been hoping to attract the “Reel Talk” series to the South Bay. She realized that that the South Bay Film Society had developed a large following and that it would be interested in the “Reel Talk” series. Berler and Pleatman then convinced Farber to form a partnership with them. If this trial series is successful then we’ll see others, continuing indefinitely.

People miss the old art houses – the Fox Venice, the Nuart, Theatre Vangard, the Rialto, etc. – where cinema was an adventure, an education, and not just vapid entertainment. Audiences were stirred, stimulated, and they wanted to discuss what they experienced.

Because the films presented by “Reel Talk” are still unreleased, the titles to be screened aren’t known until right before the series begins. However, Farber’s track record is superb, and he has long-since earned the trust of his ticket holders.

Last year, for example, the films and guest speakers he presented included “The Magic of Belle Isle” with director Bob Reiner, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” with director John Madden and co-star Tena Desae, and “The Artist” with writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, producer Thomas Langmann, plus actors Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Penelope Ann Miller, and James Cromwell.

“Reel Talk” will screen at the Arclight Beach Cities, 831 S. Nash St., El Segundo (at Rosecrans and Nash). Go to southbayfilmsociety.com/reel-talk/.

Berler’s South Bay Film Society will continue to screen films at the AMC Rolling Hills theater in Torrance. These select foreign films and independent films are what we’d normally have to drive to the Westside or Hollywood if we want to see them.

“When I started out last June,” Berler says, “I had no access to new films, so I screened the 1994 film, “Red, Three Colors,” in hopes I could convince a local theater that there is an audience for new independent and foreign films in the South Bay. “Red” attracted over 200 people, who attended this film – available in DVD – because they wanted to support the idea of bringing the films that play the art house theaters to the South Bay.”

Berler soon realized that the only way it would happen was by doing it himself. This was made possible with the help of TUGG, a new online company, which connects local audiences to films they would not otherwise have access to. TUGG books the new films requested by Berler.

The rapid growth of the South Bay Film Society took Berler by surprise. “My biggest concern is that I can no longer accommodate all the people who want tickets,” he says. “Now 500 to 600 people are going online to snap up the 360 tickets available for the films, which usually sell out within two days.”

The bottom line, though, is that there is a healthy appetite for films that aren’t afraid to take chances or to challenge their audience, and that what Berler has brought to the Beach Cities will continue to thrive and even expand.

In December, the South Bay Film Society will screen “A Royal Affair” (from Denmark) and “The Flat” (from Israel). Both films are already sold out.

For more information, and to get on the e-mail announcement list, go to southbayfilmsociety.com.

 

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