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We are called to welcome strangers into our homes. I do. I am faulted for that by the City of Toronto. “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.” .


“Hartt’s belief in the shroud, which many see as a medieval forgery, is unshakable.


“The shroud has been called the fifth Gospel,” Hartt said. “It is. It bears witness to the passion, the suffering and the Resurrection…. The science now bears out that everything in the Gospels is true, which is astonishing.”


Hartt caught the attention of several newspapers over the summer for his battle with city hall, but in conversation he doesn’t seem worried about byaw enforcement.“The city can shut me down. I mean, you know Jesus? They threw Him in the tomb and they thought that was that. It wasn’t. I’m Irish and we Irish love fights.””

“There are no red carpets in front of the old row house on Bathurst St., no velvet ropes, no firefly flashes of light from the tiny cameras of the crowd.


“There is no crowd.


“There is Reg Hartt, on his front porch, savoring a chill cup of irony: as the film festival swirls around him, he is about to be shut down.


“Reg Hartt?


If you read handbills on light poles, you know him as a film historian, an admirer of Betty Boop, and the man who screens all sorts of filmic treasures in the front room of his home.


The city thinks Hartt is running a business. The city wants to shut him down. The city doesn’t know its film pass from its elbow.


“Hartt’s home theatre, Cineforum, seats 17 people. It is never full. He is no threat — in truth, quite the opposite — to the megaplexes of the city.


“Might as well harass the hosts of book clubs.” And then he said that, because it is his house, he can have his friends over any time he wants.


“His friends?


“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.”


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