Secret Cinema Surprises Cineastes

I have a secret to tell you, only I can’t. The secret curator of Secret Cinema won’t let me.

Why all the secrecy?

“I prefer to remain anonymous to preserve the mystique,” the curator said.

Secret Cinema is a society of sorts that meets every other Sunday at the Media Arts Center in Golden Hill to watch a movie. The hitch is that audience members don’t know what the movie will be until they see the title during the opening credits. However, a mysterious e-mail that provides clues to the film arrives to members a few days before the screening.

The point of all this clandestinity is to bridge the gap between those who fancy themselves film aficionados and those who are more or less film novices, the curator said.

“One of the main goals is that people have film be a communal experience that matters in a publicly intellectual sort of way,” the curator said.

The evolving trend of watching movies at home is one of the things that inspired this movie-watching community.

“I grew up in the (Landmark) Ken Cinema, and that’s where I learned to know everything I needed about life,” the curator said.

With Secret Cinema, he said he hopes to recapture the experience of watching movies with an audience and spur discussion afterward.

“I think there was once a time where people got together and saw films that mattered to them and they were worth talking about and weaving the ideas into (people’s) daily lives,” the curator said.

The curator said he hopes to stimulate and inspire the world to change by showing films in a communal atmosphere and providing a discussion group for people to exchange ideas.

“Hopefully, people who don’t normally do so can go into the world and engage and start talking to other people, and things can shift a little,” the curator said.

Audiences can expect to see movies that fit the curator’s self-imposed mandate – the main criteria is that the film has never been shown in San Diego. Last week, the Secret Cinema unveiled a Japanese movie of mysterious origin. This is primarily because the DVD box is entirely in Japanese, and therefore, difficult for English speakers to understand.

The curator remained cagey while setting up chairs, bringing out sodas and tweaking the projector.

“I’m not particularly interested in talking about the titles that have been shown, because if you came to see the movie, you know what the film was, and if you didn’t come, you don’t get to know what the film was,” the curator said.

The secrecy may not serve the ambitious nature of this project, but the curator hopes that the mystique will contribute to the intellectual idea of film as art, something he feels is discouraged in the public.

“There’s sort of a fragmentation and the idea that the public in general isn’t allowed to have intellectual conversations about ideas that matter from the arts,” the curator said.

The program is going well for the secret curator, though there is one thing he would like to change.

“People tend to direct their comments through me,” the curator said. “I’d prefer it and sometimes it does do this, where the people forget I’m even up there or had anything to do with the film they just saw and just start discussing with each other what’s going on.”

-Secret Cinema will have a screening at 7 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, visit

Originally published in The Daily Aztec.