I learned it at the movies: Scenesters Selects Series kicks off at FilmScene

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Scenesters Presents: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

FilmScene — Monday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m.

Scenesters Presents: Harold and Maude

FilmScene — Tuesday, May 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (2004). — video still

On Sunday, May 12 at 2 p.m., Iowa City cinephiles had the chance to revisit Terry Gillam’s dystopian Brazil (1985) followed by a post-screening conversation led by FilmScene’s Scenesters, an inaugural high school film club comprised of six high school students from Iowa City City High and West High.

Screenings include Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) on Monday, May 13 at 5:30 p.m. and Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971) on Tuesday, May 14 at 5:30 p.m.

“Media arts education is a vital part of what FilmScene does year-round,” says FilmScene’s programming director Rebecca Fons. “Our inaugural year of Scenesters has been an important addition to our education initiatives — and so much fun.”

“Getting to know our six Scenesters has been a personal joy,” Fons said of working with the students in the program. “They all love film and are lively debaters when it comes to cinematic likes and dislikes. The Scenesters program has provided them each with a stronger film vocabulary, the challenge to collaborate and the opportunity to speak in front of an audience on something they are passionate about.”

FilmScene’s Associate and Marketing Director Andrew Sherburne adds, “Going to the movies isn’t unusual for teens, but these Scenesters are taking in the images on screen with purpose: thinking deeply about the movies, how they are constructed and what they’re trying to tell us about the world we live in.”

Conversation is the sine qua non of the post-screening cinema going experience. Generating discussion has been a hallmark feature of the Bijou Film Forum’s series, especially when grappling with politically prescient films such as The Act of Killing (2013) or Tangerine (2015) from this past semester. And historically, film clubs or ciné-clubs were a major draw in the 20th century for discussing influential directors and reveling in carefully curated programs. The Scenesters proudly carry on this tradition in the coming week.

This year, the Scenesters Select series gravitates towards dark comedies, sci-fi, off-beat romance and magical realism. As Scenester and City High freshman Madeleine Boscaljon (who will be one of the students leading the discussion post-Harold and Maude) summarizes, “we were trying to get a variety of genres, time periods and directors. We wanted to show movies that you probably wouldn’t see in a theater now otherwise.”

Ashby’s Harold and Maude is a cult-classic beloved not just for its Cat Stevens soundtrack, Harold’s macabre attempts at staging his own death or Ruth Gordon’s Golden Globe nominated performance. Harold and Maude is also a film about unadulterated love, love not based on enflamed ardor or artificial attachments but true connection.

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey’s Joel is attempting to erase that connection, which he once experienced with his now-estranged ex-girlfriend Clementine (played by a delightful, blue-haired Kate Winslet). Most of the film takes place in Joel’s mind during Lacuna, Inc.’s memory erasure procedure, as Joel desperately attempts to preserve the memories of Clementine that make both his mind and his heart happy.

And even Brazil, a dystopian satire on bureaucracy, has a romance running through it, as well. Love is in the proverbial air. And it is always for the love of film that the audience stays in their seats when the lights go up, eager to engage in dialogue with one another. Critic Pauline Kael may have lost it at the movies, but in Iowa City we get to learn at the movies, too.

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Tickets for the screenings in the series are regular price with all proceeds benefiting the continuation of this free program for area high schoolers. Students interested in joining Scenesters for the 2019-2020 school year can email their interest to Rebecca Fons at

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