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Anonymous flyers are being posted around Toronto on utility poles, poster kiosks and every available surface citing Reg Hartt’s presentation of Wakefield Poole’s landmark motion picture BOYS IN THE SAND as child pornography.

This is part of a longstanding campaign against Mr. Hartt which was documented by Oliver Moore in THE GLOBE AND MAIL: .

Moore writes, “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.

“Reg Hartt, who runs the Cineforum out of his Bathurst Street home, had decided earlier this week that it was too risky to stay open. Patrons keen to see Salò on Tuesday night were sent home disappointed and he said he planned to lie low for a while and then start angling for a new venue.

“But by Friday he was determined to stand firm. He will screen a Jane Jacobs picture and a psychiatric hospital documentary tonight and is “rebooting” his film schedule. Among the movies he plans to show is the gay pornographic classic Boys in the Sand – the very picture an anonymous detractor cited on a downtown poster that was part of an attempt to smear Mr. Hartt.”

David Wencer wrote in Heritage Toronto: CineForum & Reg Hartt

Since 1992, 463 Bathurst has been the home of the CineForum, a unique Toronto institution dedicated to the collecting and screening of films, particularly those films which have the power to provoke. It is certainly Toronto’s most intimate of cinemas; the theatre itself is the modified lounge of a downtown Victorian townhouse, furnished cozily with an eclectic assortment of chairs. The CineForum’s most distinctive feature, of course, is Reg Hartt, the resident curator and a self-confessed eccentric who personally hosts each screening.

Hartt’s history with Toronto goes back to the 1960s, a time when Toronto did not enjoy the same relationship with the film industry that it has today. Movie theatres in Toronto only showed content currently in wide theatrical release, and as such there were a great many films going unwatched by the local citizenry – these included not only independent projects, but also those films released several decades before. In the 1960s, Hartt began amassing an archive of film prints, and had his first screenings at George Henderson’s Viking Books, a bookstore then on Queen Street West.

Over the subsequent years, Hartt’s screenings of rare films developed a following as they moved around the downtown core. One memorable location was in Yorkville, in a boutique called “Queen Victoria Slept Here” over a pool hall. Yorkville at this time was still an un-gentrified Bohemian hub, where artists, writers, and others embracing the ideals of the time met and flourished. Hartt’s programmes fit right in until he became a resource person at nearby Rochdale College Toronto’s experiment in alternative self-education which lasted into the mid-1970s.

The culture of the time also meant that many controversial films were unknown to Toronto audiences. Hartt was the first in Toronto to screen “Boys in the Sand,” a 1971 gay pornographic film which achieved some crossover success, and which is often linked to galvanizing the gay liberation movement in North American cities. By screening films it wasn’t possible for Torontonians to see anywhere else, Hartt was able to launch discussions that people in Toronto might otherwise not have had.

The fact that Hartt still chooses to launch these discussions literally, at his screenings, sometimes rankles his audience, particularly those who “just want to see a movie.” The clue is in the name, however: CineForum. Rather than making theatre-going a passive experience, Hartt creates a genuine forum in the ancient Roman sense, wherein people are encouraged to challenge not only the films that he screens, but the ideas and opinions he expresses. 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.

This unorthodox way of screening films has lead to Hartt being considered a polarizing figure in Toronto, often branded as “controversial” or even “crazy.” Hartt is certainly in no hurry to rid himself of these labels.

–David Wencer

These anonymous flyers are being put up by James Gillis (aka “Dr. Jamie) who,in 2017,  was arrested and charged  with Criminal Harassment. This seems to be part of the City of Toronto’s longstanding campaign to discredit Mr. Hartt.

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