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The Comfort Castle Cineplex

The fisheye distorts the distance. The road is only about 25ft wide.

Some of you may remember us begging for money last year for a projector to use in our community. Well, we got it (over a year ago I think) and we’ve been using it every week since then. We’ve used it for computer classes, community workshops, and movie nights. Every Sunday for over a year now, excluding ones we’re out of town or it’s raining, we would carry my laptop, the extension cord, the projector, some cables and string and the twin sheet up to my friend Garth’s place (which is very near to the square) (about 1/2mi from our house) and spend the night playing movies on the twin sheet with the sound through his big sound system. We typically show an educational show first (Planet Earth, Life, Bill Nye, etc), a family/kid friendly show next, and finally something more grown up like a Western or Action or Comedy (if you can get all of those in one movie, you’ve hit the jackpot. Blazing Saddles? A smash hit). By that time it’s around midnight and we pack up and walk back home.

We setup all the electronics under a tarp drapped over the speakers cause in Portland, rain can fall any time, any day.

As with anything, trying to please a large group of people can be frustrating, but also really rewarding. Since most of the movies they see are on tiny TVs and a camera copy from some other country and they aren’t really the good movies; typically some cheesy Kung Fu, or Cinderella 4, or just a really really low budget something from who knows where… we really wanted to show good, high quality films in a fun public setting. We definitely could’ve improved on things with more crowd interaction and whatnot, but I think we did a really good thing just giving people and the youth something to do every Sunday night when usually absolutely nothing is going on.

We typically have any number of people in attendance from how many you see in the pics to about double that. Lots of kids come out (especially during the summer). We get lots of old men. In fact, they’re our most regular movie watchers. It’s great. They come and stand around and watch 4hrs of shows. And the few compliments I have gotten from community members have mostly come from them (it’s common for Jamaicans to tell everyone else how great you are, but never actually tell you). And out here, women don’t have much to do at night. Men go out and socialize and drink and play dominoes but women dont have a lot to do, so it’s been cool seeing them out with us.

I wish I’d kept a log of all the movies we showed. It took a while to figure out which kind of shows they’d understand and enjoy (understand as in, understanding the English dialogue). Transformers 2, Avatar, Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle… oh, 3:10 to Yuma, The Good the Bad the Weird, Blazing Saddles, Shoot ’em Up… They even liked Up, How to Train Your DragonPrincess & the Frog was excellent, so multi-culticultural. OH, they loved ATL. That was really fun. It’s really difficult to find good films with darker skinned people as the protagonist. Seriously. Have you tried? This last week we showed the new Karate Kid which was literally the perfect closer. It had all the things they loved: Kung Fu, comedy, it was in China, hiphop in the soundtrack, action, and Will Smith’s kid was the protagonist. It was delightful. OH, and Jackie Chan! Oh man, they love that guy. We have shown a lot of classic King Fu too. Legend of Drunken Master, Fist of Legend… and Ninja Assassin (not classic, but excellent action). Tombstone… a HUGE hit. The Planet Earth series were big hits. They love “nature shows.” It’s great getting to show them insects and plants that they they’re used to seeing but in a completely new light. I think they loved it.

Every now and then I’d take a chance on something I thought they would like, but didnt know for sure. Hot Rod was awesome. Star Trek was good (they typically aren’t in to sci-fi, but it’s just a great film). Nightmare Before Christmas was a bit odd to them, I think. I showed Good Hair, but got a lot of flak from the youth about it. Wankers.

Some interesting things happen when you watch familiar movies with other cultures. Back at Christmas we watched Fred Claus, which is a funny uplifting Christmas movie. But towards the end it shows all the kids around the world in their nice beds, in their nice living rooms getting gifts around the tree in their pajamas by the fireplace with the perfect family unit. Generally, I wouldn’t have thought a thing about it because frankly, that’s how my life was, but the fact is, very few people in this world have a life like that. These Jamaicans sure as hell don’t. And I never thought anything about it till we were watching it with everyone. I felt embarrassed. Not because I did have that life, but because, I don’t know… it felt insensitive. It made me preview movies a lot more closely. I guess I never realized how foreign and possibly confusing some aspects of our culture can be to others.

We finally started putting everything on the other side of the sheet and flipping the image around. This kept ell the equipment out of the road and out of sight.

As for the projector, we’re selling it for less than half of what we paid. We ended up getting almost half the funds from you guys and we put in the rest (including a nice $200 import tax coming through the airport). The plan is to sell it to another community for their use. I think it may actually be a church. We didn’t want to carry it back with us, so I think this is best option for it.

So on that note, thank you everyone for your support on this. Without your help, this fun little project would not have been possible. If they could, I know a lot of kids and farmers who would thank you for giving them something to look forward to every week.

So on their behalf (and ours), thank you.

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3 Responses

  1. what an awesome and simple project!

  2. The whitey in the photos is Dave Ingleman, who has founded the Mocho Film Series events in his Clarendon community…what can I say–good ideas have a ripple effect!!

  3. Hey, I’m an RPCJ (G73/Kingston, 02-04) and currently serving as the VP of Friends of Jamaica, the RPCV group. First off, we love supporting projects like that with the money our dues raise – you can fill out an application at servejamaica.org for grants up to $500 .

    Second, we’re all “old” volunteers, and many of our term limits are coming up anyhow, so if there are any COSing volunteers from more recent groups, please nominate them for spots on the board by emailing president@servejamaica.org

    Walk good! Also, if you stumble across any “Blue Mountain Movie,” ahem, “pirate” discs, that’d be me and my roomie. Have you ever played “Life + Debt” during your movie showings? I’d love to hear the reactions to that…

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