May 6, 2024

SCREEN | Saving Cinema – 'The Movie Man' Projects x DOXA 2024

"We're not a destination for anything, really."
Keith Stata Matt Finlin | The Movie Man | DOXA 2024
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Toronto native Matt Finlin poignantly documents an elderly cinephile's life's work in The Movie Man. We follow septuagenarian business owner Keith Stata, the proprietor of the unique forty-year-old Highlands Cinemas located in the small hamlet village of Kinmount (population three hundred) in the backwoods of Ontario near the Kawartha Lakes, as he struggles to run a house-like movie theatre during challenging times without enough customers or residents to justify his self-described "five-screen movie palace."

How small is Kinmount, exactly? It no longer has its own gas station or a school. Thankfully, the cinema also doubles as an ornate, 4,000-square-foot memorabilia museum, housing thousands of film artifacts and Canada's largest projector collection (also some forty cats), which welcomes upwards of 50,000 visitors every summer. That is, before the global pandemic rendered it non-operational for two of its critical revenue-generating summers.

The Movie Man shows its reverence and affection for people who share their passion with neighbours and customers. How the documentary captures the essence of the suburban movie-going experience serves as a greater metaphor for value of cinema as a whole. Its setting deep in unassuming Ontario cottage country only makes its Cinema Paradiso-type legend all the more meaningful.

Finlin offers an intimate and heartwrenching portrait of a cinematic mecca in Highland Cinemas that just "doesn't exist anywhere else." It's a special watch for anyone who enjoys sitting in a dark theatre among strangers to watch a movie. It's a documentary microcosm of the shifting industry changes within the greater film distribution and exhibition industries seen through the eyes of a small-town business operator.

The Movie Man screens at the 2024 DOXA Documentary Film Festival as part of the Paint Me A Film spotlight at The Cinematheque on May 7th.

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