Forget Cannes

The liveliest film festival is at a coffeehouse or bar near you

| May / June 2003

More than a hundred years after the Lumi?re brothers projected the first film on the basement wall of a Paris caf?, underground film is experiencing a revival in the form of microcinema?alternative screening spaces like bars, coffeehouses, and community centers that exhibit a variety of experimental works by independent filmmakers.

The term ?microcinema? was coined in 1991 by two San Francisco?based experimental film buffs, David Sherman and Rebecca Barten, who started showing movies out of their mobile home. Since then, local microcinema scenes and Web sites that stream films (see below) have cropped up across the United States, Canada, and Europe, providing a haven for filmmakers seeking exhibition opportunities and for film buffs who?d like to get to know each other.

?Microcinemas,? writes Angela Alston in The Independent Film & Video Monthly (Sept. 2002), ?are not a place to sink into the dark and disconnect all neural activity.? Indeed, the casual, salonlike atmosphere of microcinemas (both beer and conversation usually flow freely) creates a sense of community that more than makes up for the lack of stadium seating and Dolby sound. To locate the microcinema salon nearest you, log onto or check out these Web sites, which serve up a variety of shorts and features: