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Reg Hartt

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Reg Hartt
Reg Hartt’s Cineforum

Reg Hartt’s Cineforum
Born Reginald Hartt
June 12, 1946 (age 74)
Minto, New Brunswick, Canada
Occupation film historian, film critic, orator, author
Period 1965-present
Subject Film

Reg Hartt (born June 12, 1946 in Minto, New Brunswick) is a film archivist in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who is well known for his unique staging of films that cover all aspects of the art of motion pictures from their inception to the present. His programs are shown in his 40-seat theatre “The Cineforum”. Hartt has been described as “one of Canada’s foremost authorities on the art, business, culture and history of motion pictures.” (Montreal Mirror), Stated Robert Furmanek of THE 3D Film Archive, “I am delighted to hear that Reg Hartt will be presenting a course on 3D Filmmaking. I can think of no one better suited to discuss the amazing and groundbreaking stereo cinematography of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.” Stated Academy Award honored animation director and producer Chuck Jones, “In preserving and presenting our films as we meant them to be seen Reg Hartt is doing great work for the art of animation.” (Letter to Hartt). Hartt created his CineForum in Toronto as a “living, breathing work of art.” (Ed Keenan, Toronto Star). Hartt has been described as “everything Jane Jacobs wrote about in THE DEATH AND LIFE OF GREAT AMERICAN CITIES.” (Laura Lind, EYE weekly). British painter Peter More describes Hartt’s CineForum as “the best place on earth in which to view a movie.” Hartt has made a lifetime study of THE I CHING and THE NEW TESTAMENT by practicing the ideas taught in both daily. His CineForum welcomes strangers. “Reg Hartt is a Crazy-Wisdom-Yogin. He is living absolutely the life he is teaching. As a Buddhist, that is the highest compliment I can pay.”–Jerzy Zaborski. Reg Hartt is recognized as one of the top fifty male speakers of all time. . “The best part of a Reg Hartt program is what he has to say.”–Jane Jacobs. “My mother loved Reg Hartt.”–James Jacobs. Reg Hartt purchased an authorized replica of The Turin Shroud: After acquiring ever available book and DVD Hartt now speaks authoritatively about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. States Hartt, “THE TURIN SHROUD gives us the image of a corpse suspended vertically in the air, which is impossible but which nonetheless is. It captures the instant just before life returned to that dead body. As Dame Isabel Piczek has stated, “The Turin Shroud shows as an Event Horizon, a moment just like the original Big Bang during which everything was created but also a moment when everything was created again.”

Early career

Beginning in 1965, Hartt originally screened his films in rented locations. These included the Bathurst Street Church and the Spadina Hotel, as well as Sneaky Dee’s, Rochdale College and locations on Queen Street West and Mirvish Village. From 1970 to 1975 he served as Director Of Cinema Studies at Toronto’s Rochdale College. He has lectured at art galleries, colleges, museums, schools, theatres and universities across Canada and in The United States.

The Cineforum

Since 1992 he has shown the movies in his house on Bathurst Street. The screening room is his front parlour. A neon sign reading “Cineforum” placed in the front window indicates his presence. An inscription in ancient Greek over the front door reads “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Hartt’s characteristic black and white typewriter-text-with-film-stills advertising posters are ubiquitous around downtown Toronto to the point where they were used as part of the background of a comic book cover.[1] He can be seen occasionally riding his bicycle with a big stack of them in the front basket.Hartt states, “I enjoy street postering. It’s exercise. I see the city. I meet people.”

Cineforum Alumnae

Many artists, musicians & writers have passed through the doors of Cineforum. A few of these include:

Laval-raised alt/country troubadour Petunia has released over ten albums and tours North America and Europe regularly. A multi-talented bilingual artist, his rarely seen unreleased 16mm film “El Rallado” was shot in and around Cineforum and the city of Toronto, and includes footage of Hartt’s late Father. Petunia resided at the house for some time, helping to create/inspire the painting on the veranda, steps, and facade of the leading up to the house on Bathurst St. He is now based in Vancouver and Los Angeles and returns regularly to Toronto. His most recent release is 2016’s ‘Dead Bird On The Highway’.

Scots/Canadian musician/writer/poet The Mad Dalton (aka Pierre Dalton / Peter GW Sumadh) arrived at Cineforum late one summer having recently returned from Scotland and with an Allen Ginsberg biography in his hand. He had been lured to Cineforum by a poster he’d seen for a screening of Jean Cocteau’s “Blood Of A Poet” and, being homeless at the time, Hartt invited him to stay & he remained for over a year. He occupied the “sloping room” on the upper floor of the house, working as a projectionist and assisted in running Cineforum for a time while Hartt focused on writing “The Epic Of Gilgamesh”. He accompanied Hartt during his only visit to New York City and met Al Aronowitz and Shamus Culhane as well as shows in Guelph, Montreal, and Kitchener-Waterloo. There he witnessed the infamous riot where the crowd rushed the stage culminating in a male audience member kissing Hartt on the lips. Though now based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Sumadh returns to Cineforum regularly for readings and live performances calling his time there: “…the single best education I could have ever possibly imagined, validating all I had believed yet it made me re-think everything too…”.

Film presentations

The films he screens are generally old and tend to the bizarre; typical programs include “the anarchist surrealist hallucinatory film festival” featuring works of Man Ray, Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, or “the sex and violence cartoon festival”, featuring racy Bugs Bunny cartoons including some of the infamous Censored Eleven. Other offerings include “Kid Dracula” (Murnau’s Nosferatu set to Radiohead’s Kid A) and a clean print of Leni Riefenstahl‘s Triumph of the Will. Although met with controversy, his screening of Triumph of the Will is understood to be educational and has been described as such by Bernie Farber (former executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress), and author Jane Jacobs, among others.[2] His collection includes many rare items and he has also screened rare films by Winsor McCay and Mike Jittlov.[3]

Past presentations have included guest programmers. The complete Zatoichi film franchise series was hosted by Grey Coyote of Paradise Bound Music. Charlie Huisken of This Ain’t the Rosedale Library is a frequent guest programmer, as was Jamie Ross, Andre Skinner of Canteen Knockout. Nima Hoda did an in-depth look at the music of Bernard Herrmann for Jason and the Argonauts.[4][5]

Hartt is known for delivering inspired addresses on the subject of Jesus Christ, cartoons, or anecdotes concerning his varied life experiences as a prologue to, or during the breaks in his longer programs. His residency at Rochdale College, where he was director of cinema studies, is the topic of a spoken word performance, and he has hosted some of the city’s most notorious poetry readings[6] Well known by many of Toronto’s residents, Hartt has been host to many famous artists and writers, including writer John Robert Colombo, film historian Elwy Yost, rock journalist Al Aronowitz, Jane Jacobs, science-fiction writer Judith Merril, British artist Peter Moore, Canadian animator John Kricfalusi, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick, Shamus Culhane, Bernard B. Brown, and Pierre Berton, who gave his last public reading at the Cineforum.

Legal problems

In May 2017, Hartt was charged two counts of possessing child pornography, two counts of accessing child pornography and one count of “making available” child pornography. Hartt denied the charges, claiming that the images were likely downloaded by a stranger who used the wifi during one of his screenings. Police with a search warrant also found 250 images “that could be found in pornography museums around the world or reputable bookstores around the world,” according to Hartt.[7] Those charges were dropped early in Hartt’s case. Hartt notes that artists and educators have a right under the law in Canada to access, study and make use of such material for artistic and educational purpose provided that use is not harmful to persons under 16 (Criminal Code of Canada). Hartt has been under vicious and sustained attacks through the use of smear posters since 2000. This has been documented in THE GLOBE AND MAIL and elsewhere. , “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr. Reg Hartt knows all about the silence of his friends.

“Someone ought to do it, but why should I? Someone ought to do it, so why not I? Between these two sentences lie whole centuries of moral evolution.”–Annie Besant. For Reg Hartt the answer has always been, “Why not I.” “Reg Hartt is the only man in Toronto who stands up.”–Ed Keenan, Toronto Star.

Quotes about

  • “Reg Hartt is what living in a metropolis is all about. He personifies the city as a meeting place of ideas, as a feast of experience and discussion and debate, as a triumph of the original and provoking over the banality and soporific.” – Michael Valpy, The Globe and Mail
  • “Some audience members were visibly distressed by the frequency and force of Hartt’s interjections into the program but it is clearly his chosen way of doing things, and the payoff in information is worth it. He has many good stories to tell: about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s transformation into Mickey Mouse, Disney’s most enduring character; about the furor that greeted the creation of Tweety Pie, which subsided only when the artists painted him yellow; and much valuable technical information for the animation students. He has some interesting tales about Mel Blanc, Warner Brothers‘ resident genius of voice acting, as he continues the series with a full scale look at the Warner work of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and others. It’s the best work of its kind you will see anywhere because, except in rare oases in the United States and Eastern-Europe, they don’t make them like that anymore.” – Paul McGrath, The Globe and Mail
  • “Surrealism is an art movement that requires and deserves explanation, and Hartt did that well.” – Barend Keifte, The Muse. St. John’s, Newfoundland (July l5, 1988)
  • “Some time ago I attended a showing of the Nazi propaganda film, Triumph of the Will, in a program put on by Reg Hartt (who) prefaced the film with an excellent commentary on the frightening skill with which expert propagandists can manipulate and fool unwary, credulous or self-deceived viewers. I thought the program was eminently educational, indeed almost a necessary form of education in the sense that it so vividly and effectively inoculated viewers against accepting propaganda at face value. The program went way beyond the all-too-common hassle over good versus bad propaganda because it was anti-propaganda of any sort: anti-manipulation. – Jane Jacobs, activist, author, urbanologist
  • “I am a friend of Reg Hartt. So is anyone who can appreciate a man who teaches the way Neal Cassady drove a bus. I mean that, where you have style wrapped around content and tied with a ribbon of beat improvisation, there you have angels. Harvey Pekar was an angel. And I’ve never met anyone with wings who did not have an ego. Nor is this an easy town for a man who is larger than life, and does not to suffer fools. You might like to know that the friends of Reg Hartt included the non-fool-suffering Jane Jacobs, who knew a thing or two about what, and who, makes life worth living in the city; that’s good enough for me.”–Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star, (Sept. 15, 2010)
  • “The Cineforum, indeed the whole house, is itself a work of art, a living, breathing work of art,” Hartt says. That it is…His Cineforum is a tribute to the virtues of the unplanned, the uncorporate, the uncertified, the unregulated. What a treasure to live in a place where a character like Hartt can make a place for his passions and his art and where anyone can go and share them.Toronto’s government constantly proclaims its belief in the Gospel of Jane Jacobs. But bureaucrats can’t see the value in the kind of fascinating, eccentric home Hartt keeps. Instead, they try to shut him down in the very year they are loudly celebrating the 100th anniversary of Jacobs’ birth. If they understood the first thing about Jacobs’ work, they would let Hartt continue to develop his own.”–Ed Keenan, Toronto Star (June 27, 2016)
  • “By providing a free forum for curious Torontonians to consume and talk about art, it has in its modest way enriched the cultural life of the city. Any law that would erase this unique landmark on purely bureaucratic grounds is an ass of exactly the sort Jacobs fought so fiercely against.”–Editorial, Toronto Star (June 28, 2016).
  • “Reg Hartt) the founder of a landmark alternative theatre in downtown Toronto is refusing to back down in the face of a poster-bullying campaign that seems designed to bring violence upon him and his associates.The poster campaigns range from overt incitements to violence.”–Oliver Moore, The Globe And Mail (Feb. 24, 2012).
  • “Media accounts of the Cineforum are invariably written from an intensely personal perspective, because visiting the Cineforum is an intensely personal experience, where the audience, no matter what size, is always treated as the individuals that they are, and not as a homogeneous group of people with a single thought. Unsurprisingly then, one of the CineForum’s longtime supporters was Jane Jacobs, the late activist who promoted individual communities within an urban mosaic.”–David Wencer, Heritage Toronto, (Jan. 14, 2013)
  • “The Cineforum is a tiny theatre that screens silent films, Bugs Bunny cartoons, and the Wizard of Oz synced up with Pink Floyd. Not many Torontonians have visited, but chances are good that they know about it. Reg Hartt advertises the Cineforum with basic white posters, and the posters are everywhere. The first time you visit the Cineforum is never what you expect. The floors creak and the lighting is old, yellowish and dim. Down the front hallway is a kitchen, cluttered but clean. You may feel the uneasiness of having trespassed in a stranger’s home, because that’s also what the Cineforum is. Reg Hartt has ignored zoning bylaws and has put the Cineforum in his living room. “[The Cineforum] is part Gertrude Stein’s salon and part Andy Warhol’s Factory wrapped in a Toronto version of Henri Langlois’s original Paris Cinémathèque”, says Hartt… Hartt faces a new challenge: he has become the target of a slander campaign. Anonymous posters started appearing in Toronto, first targetting Hartt, then also targetting one of the other residents of the Cineforum. The latter were most troubling, as they accused the individual in question of secretly videotaping drug dealers and giving the address of the Cineforum. Feeling that they might be attacked, Hartt says he felt that closing the theatre was necessary. “When I looked at those [posters], the starkness of them, I said, no, you gotta shut down, you can’t take any chances. I was shut down for two days. That gave me time to think. In that time that I was shut down, I reflected and thought about all the people I’ve known over the years, and how I didn’t fight I would be letting them down, and realized sometimes you just have to stand up.” Hartt has responded by, again, calling and writing to every politician he can. Hartt has also put up his own posters, hundreds of them, defending himself from the charges and inviting people to come to the Cineforum again. It all seems at odds with the popular perception of Toronto: we are supposed to be polite, distant, and a little awkward. Hartt, in his stubbornness, doesn’t fit into this mold. Yet he is part of Toronto, and Toronto is better because of it.. “I have a bit of the fighting Irish in me”, he says. “I’m not going anywhere.”–Eric Brauer, June 21, 2012.
  • “Reg Hartt has had an amazing impact given the size of the venue and the esoteric nature of the programming. He’s had an incredible impact on the city. No one else is doing it. No one else has ever done it.”–Rob Salem.
  • “Reg Hartt has a feel for film unique in this country…genius level.”—Elwy Yost.
  • My knowledge of silent films, German and French cinema, came an awful lot from Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. At first he showed films at Innis College, then he had a place on Mercer St. for a while. Reg showed some really incredible silent films, from Phantom of the Opera to D.W. Griffith’s films. His strength was putting incredibly good soundtracks on the films. He has a really good ear for movie music and back in the good old days when it was all analog, he would splice them together himself.
  • A city that sees value in rules, but no value in letting Reg Hartt bend them, has no right to claim Jane Jacobs’ legacy.”–Edward Keenan, Toronto Star.
  • “Some audience members were visibly distressed by the frequency and force of Hartt’s interjections into the program but it is clearly his chosen way of doing things, and the payoff in information is worth it. He has many good stories to tell: about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s transformation into Mickey Mouse, Disney’s most enduring character; about the furor that greeted the creation of Tweety Pie, which subsided only when the artists painted him yellow; and much valuable technical information for the animation students. He has some interesting tales about Mel Blanc, Warners’ resident genius of voice characterization, as he continues the series with a full scale look at the Warner work of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and others. It’s the best work of its kind you will see anywhere because, except in rare oases in the United States and Eastern-Europe, they don’t make them like that anymore.”–Paul McGrath, THE GLOBE AND MAIL
  • “I honestly believe Reg Hartt is the greatest teacher I know for only he teaches the evil of teaching. For confirmation of everything he’s been saying all along read David Mamet’s TRUE AND FALSE.”–Emo Philips (postcard to Reg Hartt).
  • JULIA SCUTARU, retired journalist, Bucharest, Romania, 2000: “In Toronto, I discovered by chance, Cineforum. Pure chance but a fortunate one. In that small room exhaling culture, passion and dedication, I watched the movie TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, an important historical, political and social document., and real artistic achievement….As a journalist (in Romania) I worked in the cultural field, including film reviews. Therefore I came to the Cineforum not just as a movie lover, but as a knowledgeable professional…We live in an era authoritatively dominated by brainwashing and political correctness…I admired Reg Hartt’s courage and passion put in searching out and defending the human truth, the artistic truth, the historical truth; the Truth and unveiling it…Discovering Reg Hartt and his Cineforum was one of the most important events of my visit in Toronto.”
  • DAVID BEARD, owner CINEBOOKS, quoted in THE TORONTO STAR, Nov. l, l979: “(Reg Hartt) man has devoted his whole life to bringing the film classics to the public. He treats animation-cartoons, if you will-as art. He is under-financed, overworked and snubbed. I think we should pay tribute to him.”
  • DOUGLAS ELIUK, education officer NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA, formerly Canada’s Cultural Attache to America: “(REG) Hartt is acknowledged as a phenomenon in the film community. He is someone who does not rely on government grants, subsidies or institutional protection to generate his film activities. He depends entirely on his intelligence, talent and resourcefulness. His events are produced with care and good sense, in a clean and friendly atmosphere and with an almost avuncular consideration for his fans, As a film officer for the National Film Board of Canada for 30 years, I have seldom seen anyone who added so much substance and passion to the cultural fabric of our society as he has done with his lectures and presentations.”
  • WizTheMC came to Toronto and felt something different. His story is amazing, and his music is even better. Wiz was born in Cape Town, South Africa and moved to Germany with his mother and brother when he was 12 years old. In 2017, he took a spontaneous and risky trip to Toronto. He met great people and allowed his dreams to guide him. His STORY is great, and he tells it best. After deciding to pursue music full time, Wiz has credited Reg Hartt and Toronto for giving him a platform to work on and pursue music.”
  • Alexandre Hamel On Living And Learning At The Cineforum and The Creation of Le Patin Libre:
  • The world of animation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Reg Hartt.

Written works

Many of Hartt’s written works have been self-published in small press formats. One of his most celebrated pieces is his three-word-per-line free-verse adaptation of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Others include – “The Night They Raided Rochdale College”, and special publications, DVDs and CDs related to symposia with animation legends Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane.

Rochdale College at The CineForum in Toronto. At Rochdale College there were no teachers. Each Rochdalian was called to be their own teacher. At The CineForum you are called to be your own teacher. Reg Hartt wants only bad students. “An art form requires genius. People of genius are always troublemakers, meaning they start from scratch, demolish accepted norms and rebuild a new world. The problem with cinema today is the dearth of troublemakers. There’s not a rabble-rouser in sight. There was still one, but he went beyond troublemaker to court jester. He clobbered the status quo. That’s Godard. We’re fresh out of ‘bad students.’ You’ll find students masquerading as bad ones, but you won’t find the real article, because a genuine bad student upends everything.”–Henri Langlois . States Hartt, “Only come to The CineForum if you want to wreck everything and build anew. I am the end times. I am the new beginning.”




External links

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