With Help From Knight, Norton Herrick Center Hopes to Bolster Miami's 35mm Film Scene

Ever wonder where in Miami they still show films on 35mm in an age where digital projection runs rampant? Where one can take pleasure in the welcoming sound of a projector and warm look of celluloid?

One man is trying his damnedest to preserve the spirit of watching something on celluloid, and his name is Trae DeLellis.

"The cinematic experience is changing precipitously; changes that are diminishing the collective experience and sense of cultural significance," he says. DeLellis' proposal for the Knight Arts Challenge, made through the Norton Herrick Center for Motion Picture Studies, would focus on expanding the existing Cosford Classics series at the Bill Cosford Cinema.

Considering the many other cities around the country that host 35mm screenings regularly, and just how quickly Miami's film culture is growing, DeLellis' dedication to preserving and presenting classic film to South Florida audiences is essential. The series will present a full year of monthly screenings, with each month highlighting a particular film, director, nation, or theme.

Over the two years that the program has already been in motion, the theater has screened plenty of thematically linked features on 35mm. Among them have been a Resnais retrospective including Last Year at Marienbad and Stavisky, as well as an Italian Greats in Retrospect series that featured 8 1/2, Mamma Roma, and Red Desert. But so much more material has the potential to see the light of day (or rather, the dimming of house lights) thanks to the Norton Herrick Center's archive. The immense collection of both well-known and obscure works that the Herrick Center provides offers the potential for introducing audiences to material they would have never have access to otherwise.

"People have this thing about thinking old things are outdated, out of touch, and irrelevant to our present, but the people making the films then, and the characters in those films, were experiencing many of the same things as we are today," he says.

With a mind on the classics, DeLellis already has a plan for how he wants to kick things off. In conjunction with the debut of Jean-Luc Godard's latest film, Goodbye to Language 3D, at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, the Cosford Classics series would be revisiting the director's 1960s period with films like Vivre Sa Vie and Pierrot le Fou.

As much as he'd enjoy further treating the world to Godard, already having shown Weekend two years ago, DeLellis has more ambitions for the future. One other filmmaker he'd love to feature is Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who made such films as World on a Wire, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, and Fox and His Friends.

"In film school I learned about film backwards. I was a major fan of François Ozon, who was very inspired by Fassbinder, and I worked my way back from there. He's got such a massive oeuvre and this daring, experimental provocative sensibility that's cutting-edge in terms of content and form while still being nostalgic and mindful of cinematic tradition."

Even though DeLellis is passionate about 35mm, he isn't dismissive of the digital era that arrived long ago. "The digital age is great because it's making films much more accessible, he says; even the Herrick Center archives many of its prints for viewing online. "But just because it's easier and quicker doesn't mean it's better." Providing the special experience that comes with 35mm is important to him, even if it only reaches one person. "That one person seeing something that they wouldn't get to see, as much as they want to, means something to me that you can't put into words. It's just rewarding. And that's why it's great that the Knight Foundation and Herrick Center find this interesting."

Hopefully it won't just be one person enjoying and appreciating what Trae DeLellis and the Norton Herrick Center are trying to do at the Bill Cosford Cinema. As excited as people are about the digital era, it's nice knowing that there are those still passionate about showing film on 35mm in the community.

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