What do exploitation films, HIV/AIDS awareness, and a Montreal porn palace have in common? The answer is Grindhouse Wednesdays, a new event series to benefit the N.D.G.- based youth support group Head and Hands.
There are plenty reasons to celebrate, as Grindhouse Wednesdays marks the 40th anniversary of both CinÃ©ma L’Amour and Head and Hands. The film series kicks off on Dec.1, the day after World Aids Day.
Grindhouse Wednesdays will also serve as a showcase for local music acts. For six bucks, patrons will be able to kick back with two beers and a bag of popcorn.
“If we’re showing a zombie movie, what better way to complement that than with a zombie punk band?” said filmmaker and event organizer Aaron Hancox.
Hancox, 25, is no stranger to CinÃ©ma L’Amour. While a communications student at Concordia, he directed a 15-minute documentary about the history of Montreal’s last surviving porn theatre. In 2006, CinÃ©ma L’Amour won “Best Student Documentary” at the Montreal World Film Festival.
In the midst of graduate studies in Toronto, Hancox was invited to show his documentary at CinÃ©ma L’Amour for Nuit Blanche, the yearly all-night arts festival. Expecting only a few friends and family, he came face to face with a line that stretched around the block.
Recently, CinÃ©ma L’Amour owner Steve Koltai asked Hancox to program an event for the theatre’s 40th anniversary. As they were doing research, the answer fell into their laps in the form of an old ad from November 28. 19698212;the day that The Hollywood, one of the theatre’s previous incarnations, was reborn as The PussyCat.
Opening night featured a double bill of Russ Meyer films, one of which was Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, a cult classic about three go-go dancers who go on a violent joyride and mow down all the men in their paths.
Hancox suggested that CinÃ©ma L’Amour go back to its grindhouse roots, and Grindhouse Wednesdays was born. The first film of the series will be8212;what else?8212;Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
Viewers are encouraged to make suggestions for future editions of Grindhouse Wednesdays through the event’s Facebook group.
In a nutshell, grindhouse refers to both a genre and a location. As a genre, grindhouse is an umbrella term for B-movie exploitation films, or films that “exploit” graphic subject matter. As a location, grindhouse is a type of inner city movie theatre with a single screen. The term is derived from New York’s defunct burlesque theatres, which enticed viewers with “bump n’ grind” dancing and striptease.
The irony of promoting HIV/AIDS awareness with a sexploitation film isn’t lost on Hancox. However, he believes that the apparent disconnect can be used to the campaign’s advantage.
“We’re having an HIV/AIDS awareness event in a porn theatre,” he said. “A lot of porn is pretty socially irresponsible in that it doesn’t promote safe sex8212;some does, but a lot of it doesn’t. [HIV/AIDS] is a very widespread illness, and people contract it all the time. It can happen to anybody, of any colour, creed, age, whatever. It’s not a disease for people from Africa, it doesn’t just happen to homosexuals, and it’s important to remind people of that.”
What’s more, he says, grindhouse cinema deals with taboo topics like over the top violence, explicit sex, and subversive gender roles in a direct way. By showing movies like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the organizers are hoping to get in people’s faces and encourage a climate of discussion.
As a former hustler, porn star, and openly gay man, 33-year old Daniel Allen Cox feels strongly about getting the word out on HIV/AIDS. He’ll be taking on MC duties for Grindhouse Wednesdays.
“No direct link is needed between HIV/AIDS awareness and exploitation films, or any other kind of films.” said Cox, now an author and columnist. “There is no wrong time, situation or context to discuss HIV/AIDS and how it affects all of us. That’s the kind of openness I think we’ll see at Grindhouse Wednesday events.”
It’s also about creating a sense of community, he says. Viewers are encouraged to learn more about the people beside them, as well as to discuss their love of grindhouse film in a safe space.
“It’s about time that cult repertory cinema has a home in Montreal,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish as well.”
Grindhouse Wednesdays kicks off on December 2. The event series happens on the first Wednesday of every month at 9 p.m. at CinÃ©ma L’Amour (4015 St-Laurent Blvd.). Admission is $10 and includes a supply of condoms. Proceeds benefit Head and Hands’ HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. For more information, visit thegrindhouse.ca or headandhands.ca.