The reel deal

Back in 1992, when Elaine Ciampi walked into the ballroom of what was to become the Skyland Arts Cinema in downtown Hendersonville, she had one thing on her mind — foreign films (make that great foreign films).

Jim Northington, who was renovating the old Skyland Hotel ballroom with the intention of turning it into a movie theater, announced to Ciampi, “You’re just the lady I want to meet.”

That serendipitous connection spawned the Hendersonville Film Society.

Over the next eight years, a small group of passionately dedicated local citizens banded together to share their love of fine-quality, independent foreign and domestic films — the kind that spark reaction and demand discussion long after the closing credits roll. This after-hours get-together (made sweeter by dessert and coffee) soon became a popular hallmark of each film society screening.

As word spread and reels turned, this small group of cinema aficionados soon grew to include some of the area’s leading citizens — doctors, lawyers, retired ambassadors, teachers, former screen and stage actors — plus a loyal legion of good old-fashioned Henderson County film buffs.

Throughout the year, the film society’s lively newsletter keeps members (who now number more than 250) informed about the select schedule of coming attractions — thought-provoking, award-winning films from around the world.

And an ongoing series of workshops and courses gives members and non-members alike a chance to explore the world of film, complete with screenings at the society’s current venue, the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing. The latest such offering, “Introduction to Silent Cinema,” meets on Fridays through June 30. “Silent Cinema,” led by WCQS announcer Chip Kaufman (who shares his silent-film collection with his students) also serves up fascinating bits about the voiceless medium once affectionately called “The Flickers.”

As membership has grown, the aims of the Hendersonville Film Society have also expanded; they now include outreach programs in the Henderson County school system. In particular, the society’s annual video-production contest encourages budding screenwriters and filmmakers in the county’s middle and high schools.

The young talents behind this year’s winning video projects will receive cash prizes, as well as a special screening of their work. It’s all part of the Hendersonville Film Society’s fifth annual film festival, dubbed Cinema a la Carte this year and scheduled for June 8-11 at the Smoky Mountain Theater.

A tempting buffet of seven international films — chosen for their fit with this year’s food-centered theme — is on the menu for 2000: Feature films will include Gabriel Axel’s Academy Award-winning Babette’s Feast; Pupi Avanti’s spicy Story of Boys and Girls; Nana Djordjadze’s “zesty ode to pleasure” (as one critic described it), Chef in Love; Thomas Gutierrez Alea’s The Last Supper, (grand prize winner at the Chicago International Film Festival; Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ How Tasty was My Little Frenchman (about a hapless explorer captured by an Amazon tribe); Zhou Xiaowen’s hilarious Ermo (featuring the debut of a vintage pasta-maker); and Ang Lee’s sexy blockbuster Eat Drink Man Woman.

Student film awards will be announced at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 10; in addition, each festival day is seasoned with an appropriate dining experience, including on-the-house sandwiches, tea and coffee on Thursday and dinner at WNC’s new Cuban restaurant Caribbean Cafe, on Friday. A separately ticketed Grand-Finale Brunch closes out the festival.

So if you’re the kind who wants to have your cake and eat it, too, you’ll be in good company with the Hendersonville Film Society.

Schedule of films:

Thursday, June 8

Babette’s Feast (11 a.m.)

Story of Boys and Girls (1:30 p.m.)

Chef in Love (3:30 p.m.)

Friday, June 9

The Last Supper (1 p.m.)

How Tasty was My Little Frenchman (4 p.m.)

Saturday, June 10

Ermo (3 p.m.)

Eat Drink Man Woman (7 p.m.)

Cinema a la Carte, a public event sponsored by the Hendersonville Film Society, runs Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11 at the Lake Pointe Landing Center’s Smoky Mountain Theater (333 Thompson St., in Hendersonville). Three-day, one-day and single film passes are available for members and nonmembers at varying prices. The Grand-Finale Brunch happens Sunday, June 11 at the Biltmore Estate; the 12:30 p.m. event is $16.95/per person.For more information about the films and related gastronomical galas, contact Elaine Ciampi at (828) 697-7310 or Ann Robinson at (828) 692-4879.

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