Movie Movement

Can film clubs launch a progressive revolution?

| March / April 2006

The cineplex is far from obsolete, but the Netflix business model is radically changing the way we watch films. One of the most promising developments is the burgeoning film club movement. Like book clubs, film clubs bring together like- (and unlike-) minded folks to view and discuss films.

What started out as a grassroots movement has spawned a growing number of Netflix-inspired businesses that cater to group movie-watching. The latest is the Ironweed film club (ironweedfilms.com), launched in December 2005, which specializes in films with a political bent and is equal parts indie distributor and progressive movement builder.

Adam Werbach, the former Sierra Club president who founded Ironweed, believes that film -- and the film club movement -- can play a powerful role in building a progressive movement: 'We need to bring people together to have community conversations, which isn't rocket science,' he explains. 'It's union organizing 101.' Moreover, he says, film can provide a vision for progressives, providing the 'representational images to model the type of world we want to live in.'

About $15 a month, a pretty standard price for DVD publications across the board, gets you all the representational images you can handle. For that fee, Ironweed subscribers get a DVD that contains one feature film, a couple of shorts, and some interviews or other special features. Ironweed also connects clubbers who want to attend (or give) a community screening. Other Net-based clubs, like Film Movement (filmmovement.com), which specializes in independent and foreign films (and offers a discount for film clubbers), and The Spiritual Cinema Circle (spiritualcinemacircle.com), which focuses on healing and personal transformation, provide a similar service. As the film club movement grows, other outlets, including broadband services, are likely to emerge. But what's most exciting isn't the technology -- it's the community and dialogue that are built in the watching.