Let’s get digital. A riff on the Olivia Newton-John classic, the turn of phrase takes on an ironic twist when considering the original’s context: physical contact. If you’re at all invested in film culture, you’ll be familiar with the great debate of the past few years with the move from filmstrip to digital. The tangible reels with film stock are slowly being replaced by USB sticks containing countless pixels. Movies, which are increasingly looking more and more real, have never seemed so simulated.
What this shift will mean for restoration and preservation has industry elites and critics’ tongues wagging. (To say nothing of its impact on illegal downloading.) Change is certainly afoot, but it doesn’t all have to be dire. As the Great Digital Film Fest seeks to prove, digital doesn’t necessarily mean dilution. Access is the name of the game at this festival, which is modestly priced and plays classics that benefit from a big screen experience.
With a broad range of programming, the festival covers films that some generations weren’t able to see in cinemas (Stanley Kubick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange) and others that millennials will be pleased to revisit (The Matrix). Harrison Ford fans will be happy to hear all four Indiana Jones movies will be screened, and Asian film buffs will be able to see two of the biggest titles to cross-over into the Hollywood mainstream: Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy and Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. Horror aficionados can watch the famous mutation scene from John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London (which set a new bar in genre makeup and prosthetics) as it was meant to be seen. The movie brat generation is also well represented with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Martin Scorsese’s Casino and Goodfellas. And the director who hasn’t been out of the headlines since his latest feature opened on Christmas Day gets a double nod—Quentin Tarantino’s seminal films, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, will be screened. And yes, Joe Dante's Gremlins will also be played.
It’s not only about nostalgia, as the new Brit cult hit Cockneys vs. Zombies will have its Canadian debut. A comedy-horror mash-up by Matthias Hoene, in which a pair of bank robbers end up in a deadly battle to escape a zombie infested London. Starring Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore from Goldfinger), the film has the makings of a new B-classic.
Digital will always have its dissenters, but the GDFF is doing something that many in the movie business lament the decline of: getting people back into theatres and talking about the classics. Doing it digital has its benefits.