The Rep Documentary Underground Cinema

Toronto Underground Cinema to get the doc treatment

Here's a project that should get local cinephiles and fans of the Toronto Underground Cinema pretty excited. Morgan White, who's already spent some time documenting life at the theatre, is currently at work on post production of a feature length documentary about the Underground and rep movie houses in general. The first trailer was posted online a few days ago, and it proves an auspicious glimpse of what we can expect from the doc.

I got in touch with the director earlier today to ask about the project and how if differs from the Rep web documentary series, which he previously worked on. "The documentary is many layers deeper than the Rep web series ever was," explains White. "I started the web series as a way to help promote the Underground, and make something fun that showed one of the many sides that theatre has. As filming went along the story grew, and I realized was far larger and more interesting than I could ever explain in short 10ish minute episodes for the web."

Where the web series was mostly lighthearted, the doc takes a more serious approach to the state of repertory theatres in contemporary culture. "The reality is repertory cinema is dying," White tells me. "While there are still many theatres in existence (and a bunch in TO too), and a fan base of people who generally care, the stuggles these theatres face are constant."

While the doc is about the Underground, the theatre functions as a metonym for rep houses in general. "The whole point is to look at the world or repertory cinema through the eyes of one of the it's newest theatres...I want to show my audience the importance of these theatres, and what they mean to the world of cinema," says White.

To ensure that the film achieves a broader scope, he's spoken to directors, critics, and employees at other rep cinemas around North America. It's obvious how passionate these people are about the idea of the independent theatre as a cultural institution. Although the film tracks the challenges rep houses face, White is quick to point out that it's not all doom and gloom.

We'll have to wait until 2012 when the film hits the festival circuit to see how exactly the Rep is framed, but I'd expect a narrative that leaves room for a little hope. "There is a very large community of people who care, and want to see rep stay alive! Those people, many of them managers of theatres, believe in it and its continued existence... With the pending death of 35mm, the continuing domination of the multiplex, and the home video market, it's more important than it's ever been to bring this world to light before it's all gone."

No arguments about that here. Toronto's rep cinemas are a treasure, and their continued existence is crucial to the cultural vibrance of the city.

For updates on the film, follow the Rep on Twitter.

Lead photo by Roger Cullman

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