Gonzo presents alternative films to NMU

Justin Meyers

Gonzo Media has prepared another round of experimental, independent cinema for students to wrap their heads around.

For several decades, at least since the early 1970s, according to club president and senior digital cinema major Andrew Powell, Gonzo Media has brought the best in alternative and artistic cinema to NMU students and Marquette residents. These films may not be available in theaters or to rent, and expose viewers to films outside of mainstream Hollywood.

Gonzo Media screens films at 9 p.m. Thursdays in Jamrich 1100.

Gonzo Media’s vice president and senior business computer information systems major Eric Schafer-Nelson describes the club’s selection this year as “more classics, more arthouse, kind of a mix of everything else.”

Cult classic highlights this year include the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino hit “From Dusk till Dawn,” in which two homicidal bank-robbing brothers flee to Mexico and get far more than they bargained for at a seemingly innocuous strip club, the “Titty Twister.”

The David Lynch mystery masterpiece “Blue Velvet” will also be featured, in which a young college student returns home and discovers a severed ear whilst walking in a grassy lot, setting off a chain of events that leads him into the small town’s seedy underbelly of drugs, corruption, sex and violence.

Newer releases to be screened this year include “God Loves Uganda,” a Roger Ross Williams documentary that focuses on the influence of Western evangelism on Ugandan society and its relation to the criminalization of homosexuality in that country through the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Also to be screened is the Palme d’Or-winning “The Tree of Life,” an experimental family drama from Terrence Malick that incorporates a series of vignettes of the universe, nature and a Texas family into what Christopher Orr of The Atlantic described as “…a beautiful, messy film: at times lyrical, intimate, and uplifting; at others, vast, inscrutable, and maddening.”

While Gonzo attendees must only show up to be involved, for Powell, Schafer-Nelson and adviser Jon Barch, Gonzo Media is much more than just “a night at the movies.”

Before screening any film, Powell and Schafer-Nelson must contact the production company owning the film’s non-theatrical public performance rights and purchase those rights to screen the film.

Barch estimated the typical cost for Gonzo Media to acquire public screening rights to be between $200 and $500, compared to approximately $1,000 for a Campus Cinema showing.

Gonzo Media is typically able to acquire most screening rights from Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. and The Criterion Collection, according to Barch.

“They’re really easy to deal with,” Schafer-Nelson said of Swank Motion Pictures. “We deal with them all the time, they’re super nice.”

Other films require more effort to obtain the rights.

Barch said some films, perhaps not popular enough for Swank or Criterion to purchase rights to, require Gonzo to contact specific production companies.

“These people might get asked for the rights to show their movies once a year,” Barch said.

Powell said obtaining rights to films haven’t always been successful, outlining the attempt to show 1960s exploitation cult classic “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”

“It was really horrible to get rights for that because [the company] wanted to screen it on a small screen and we had to sign a contract and it was, like, all this weird stuff that we had to do to get the rights to this movie, so we just dropped it,” Powell said.

The public is welcome, and moviegoers are encouraged to bring a friend, an open mind and refreshments. Following showings, the audience is welcomed to discuss the film’s meanings, technical aspects, cultural influence and artistic significance.

And for students who may not be able to make the 9 p.m. starts due to class, work or other commitments?

“Show up whenever,” Eric said. “We’re really laid back.”

Follow Gonzo Media on Twitter at @GonzoSucks, and find them on Facebook by joining the public group “Gonzo.”