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“For his part, Reg Hartt is insistent that the Cineforum is not, strictly speaking, a cinema. ‘It’s a school, not a theatre,’ he tells us, before elaborating to say that he considers it more of a public forum for learning about and discussing ideas, comparing it to Gertrude Stein’s Parisian salon. But the fact remains that a large part of the space’s function is screening films for which attendees pay admission. Thus, according to Elizabeth Glibbery, the Toronto and East York Manager of the Municipal Licensing & Standards Division, it operates as a place of public assembly, for which the building is not zoned.  ‘[He is] inviting in people who may not be known to him,’ Glibbery told us, when asked how a group of people gathered at the Cineforum differs from a group of friends gathered to watch a DVD at any other apartment in the Toronto.”

Had anyone told me when I arrived in Toronto in the 1960s that at the sunset of my life I would be welcoming absolute strangers into my home I would have told them they were crazy.

Today I tell them they are crazy not to.

I started THE CINEFORUM by accident in 1992. I had been running a program out of a bar up the street. I had the place so packed the bar could not believe it. People rarely appreciate what they have. That was the year the newspaper EYE WEEKLY was first published. At their launch party my friend Julian Grant had done an installation using several 16mmprojectors to flash images on a multitude of screens. The man running the bar where my programs were, on seeing it said, “I want this.” Julian said, “You have Reg Hartt.” The man said, “Fuck,Reg. I want this.”

What this was was wallpaper. Damn few come out to look at wallpaper.

That bar had been dead the Saturday night a friend took me up there to see a show. I told them, “I can get you more people than this.” We made dates. I started doing my programs. I did three shows a night. Bar sales went through the roof. The owners could not believe the size of the crowds.

At the end of the summer, however, I was told my services would not be required as they had more important things to do.

It turned out the only people who thought what they were doing was important was themselves.

Finally they asked if I would come back.

When I did they showed the same lack of appreciation they had previously shown. After one very rude encounter I said, “To Hell with it.” I invited the audience down to my place just down the street for what I thought would be one night.

“We like this,” said people as they walked in.

I said, “You do? Then this is where it will be.”

Since 1992 this is where it has been.

Today the world’s number one travel guide, THE LONELY PLANET, places my Cineforum at the very top of its list of places to see in Ontario and in Toronto.

The City of Toronto’s efforts to kill this place started the year it opened. Writing in EYE WEEKLY Laura Lind stated, “Reg Hartt’s Cineforum is everything Jane Jacobs wrote about.”

It is. What especially makes it everything Jane Jacobs wrote about is the fact that the city has been doing its best to destroy it.

This is not an isolated case. Toronto has a long history of smashing down everything unique that flowers in it.

“There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”
― Jane JacobsThe Death and Life of Great American Cities

“There doesn’t seem to be much creativity at the top. It seems to me that Toronto has a split personality, a civic schizophrenia. On one level there is the spirit of individuals and small groups who do things…what you might call the vernacular spirit. This is all very informal, ingenious, quite romantic and full of fun, a great deal of fun. It seems to me that the official spirit of Toronto is stamp out fun. It’s pompous, impressed with mediocrity if its very, very big and expensive.”–Jane Jacobs–hXw8    

Jane Jacobs said that in 1969. I met her and her family the year they arrived in Toronto, 1968.

In the CBC piece above Jacobs highlights Mirvish/Markham Street Village as something unique to Toronto. It’s gone now. So much of what was unique to Toronto is gone now.

THE CINEFORUM is at its best a unique form of Christian witness.

St. Francis said, “Preach Christ constantly (use words if you must).”

A lot of folk who call themselves Christians don’t like that statement ’cause they love to use words.

I first met that statement in a completely non-Christian context.

Director/playwright/producer/screenwriter David Mamet quoted them in his book on motion picture production BAMBI VS. GODZILLA.

Mamet the non-Christian Jew and a writer got what the “Christians” do not.

There is a lot people who call themselves Christians don’t seem to get.

In Ontario we have just elected a premier who has promised to cut an awful lot of programs. He goes to church on Sunday. Many (most) of his backers go to church on Sunday.

The water of Christianity has washed over the world for 2,000 years without penetrating it.

If Doug Ford, our newly elected Premier, were to give serious thought to the words spoken to the Damned at the Last Judgement he’d shit himself.

So, too, would a host of others who call themselves Christians including Conrad Black who ought to know better.

Here, from Matthew, is THE FINAL JUDGEMENT:

Matthew 25:31-46 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Over the years I have welcomed many who were homeless into my life. I have given them a home.

I haven’t preached words at them. I have let my actions do the preaching.

One of the many things “Christians” as a whole fail to realize is that Jesus was dirt fucking poor.

Another is that he was of the land which means he came from those the elite despised. On top of that, being from what Irish author Thomas Cahill calls “Buttfuck Galilee” Jesus was from the most despised part of the Holy Land.

Ironically what most who pride themselves on having read Jane Jacobs’ THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES fail to realize is that Jane Jacobs was dirt poor when she wrote that book.

Well, I’m issuing a warning now to all those complacent “Christians” who think they have Jesus in the heart. They may have something there but it sure as Hell ain’t Jesus.

This city carries the sin of Sodom.

That sin was not as many think the sin of men making love with men.

It was the sin of not welcoming strangers.

There was and is no greater sin than this and that is true whether your belief be Christian, Jew, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist or what have you.

This city has been waging war on everything vital about it for far too long.

I came to this city dirt poor. I am still dirt poor.

Right now I have been presented with bill that demands to be paid. God’s grace that bill will be paid.

But once it has been paid God help those who demanded it.

For at The Judgement they will hear, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

They will say, “When did we that to you?”

They will hear, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

Proud to be counted among the least of these.

Doug ford, if you don’t have a change of heart for the better here and now then in that hour you will find yourself among the damned. Too bad for you (and all those with you).

Now I have to raise money to fix things up around here.

Come and see my programs.

When someone of the caliber of Jane Jacobs states the best part of what I offer is what I have to say I can say with certainty the time you spend here will be time well spent.

As for Elizabeth Glibbery, lady, you embody everything wrong about this great city. Too bad for you.–Reg Hartt 6/12/2018.

The Cineforum Is Dead! Long Live the Cineforum!

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