Digital Gym Cinema reopens with ‘Memoria’

After a two-year pandemic hiatus and a change of location, Digital gym cinema reopens this weekend with the internationally produced independent film “Memory.” The film sets the perfect tone for what this microcinema brings to San Diego.

Preview of the new digital gym

A little history

When Ethan Van Thillo, executive director of San Diego Media Arts Center, decided to open a small cinema in its facilities on El Cajon Boulevard in 2013, I was delighted. Van Thillo, a true champion of cinema in San Diego, wanted it to be a community space where foreign and independent films could be watched from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week. It was heaven for movie buffs who wanted to find more than just mainstream films.

The intimate 49-seat venue also provided a home for Movie Geek SD, a group of volunteer programmers – including myself – who wanted to make late-night horror movies, schlock low cinema, year-long movie series, and events that brought together food, movies, and entertainment. guests. Van Thillo was kind enough to let us schedule whatever crazy event we wanted without ever passing judgment on the content. His passion for cinema was to provide choice and allow films that weren’t screened anywhere else to have a place.

Digital gym cinema

The new UC San Diego at Park and Market building in East Village where Digital Gym Cinema now has its second floor home. May 2, 2022

But the microcinema had to move from its El Cajon Boulevard location, then the pandemic hit and forced it to go virtual for two years. Now it is fully open to its new location inside UC San Diego at Park and Market where it gained a dozen seats but remains intimate and dedicated to delivering diverse and exciting cinema.

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Digital gym cinema

The new Digital Gym Cinema inside UC San Diego at the Park and Market Building in the East Village. May 2, 2022.

New state-of-the-art facility

“It’s really exciting to finally be able to reopen the Digital Gym Cinema,” said exhibitions manager and programmer Moises Esparza. “Officially, we did a soft launch in January to coincide with our participation in the Sundance satellite screens, and since then we’ve done some additional renovations. [most notably improved seating] at our cinema. And I’m glad it’s finally show time.”

Although the cinema will not initially show films from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., its mission remains the same.

“Above all, we are looking for independent films and world cinema,” Esparza said. “I want to know what the authors are releasing, what new voices are saying or adding to the cinematic lexicon. I am simply looking for cinema that I think will not only speak to moviegoers but also to the community of San Diego as a whole. I don’t claim to be the authority of taste on what’s good or bad cinema, but I do think programmers, at least here locally, need to push to broaden the public’s definition of what cinema means. movie theater.”

And that’s what I love about Esparza’s lineup, you can always expect to find something fresh, exciting and innovative, which leads to the film that will be the cinema’s first offering -” Memoria” by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

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Jessica (Tilda Swinton) tries to recreate a sound that obsesses her with Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego) in “Memoria”.

‘Memoria’ opens in a new location

“Memoria” begins with a sound that awakens a woman named Jessica and then consumes her. At one point, she tries to get a sound designer to recreate the sound and she describes it as “like a rumbling from the heart of the earth”.

Jessica, played to silent and intense perfection by Tilda Swinton, goes on a journey to find out what sound means, why it obsesses her and if other people hear it too. Is it the sound of something happening? Or is it a rumbling from the distant past? She is determined to find an answer and we become consumed by her passion and Weerasethakul casts a hypnotic spell on us.

The film revels in long static shots and silences broken by carefully orchestrated sound design. In our fast-paced world, this may test the patience of some viewers as it requires us to slow down and think. This is a film that asks you to surrender to its contemplative curiosity and if you do, you will be rewarded. But don’t expect to be spoon-fed any message or even find a conventional narrative plot, this is a film that asks you to find the meaning.

For Esparza, it’s a film that perfectly encapsulates the kind of daring cinema that Digital Gym Cinema wants to offer.

“I think it really speaks to what we’re trying to accomplish here in film,” Esparza said. “It’s by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is widely recognized as an avant-garde yet profoundly philosophical and thoughtful author. It’s set in Colombia, it’s in Spanish and English, and there are moments of beautiful silence . It’s that perfect Venn diagram from the movie that I always look forward to bringing to San Diego audiences.”

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Jessica (Tilda Swinton) goes on a trip in “Memoria”.

The fact that “Memoria” opens the same weekend as Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” highlights in bold detail the contrast Digital Gym Cinema offers. It’s not that one type of film is better than another, but rather that viewers deserve to enjoy diversity and choice.

“There is no box office battle between the Digital Gym Cinema and the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” Esparza said with a laugh. “We’re totally operating in a different realm. But I think ‘Memoria’ in itself maybe opens up the possibilities of other multiverses that exist in a more independent film. I think it’s really a film that pushes the boundaries, it’s definitely a contemplative film, is really a gift for people who like to decipher cinema, who like to think about it after. And what I’m most looking forward to is people coming out of “Memoria” and talking about it between them in the lobby. That’s what excites me. I want people to have these discussions to try to decipher what the movie was about.”

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Digital gym cinema

The grand staircase leading to the Digital Gym Cinema inside UC San Diego at Park and Market in the East Village. May 2, 2022

So push your limits and your definition of film by entering the new Digital Gym Cinema at Park and Market and experiencing “Memoria”.

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