The 30-year-strong Film Forum still a hit at Central Library
by Cynthia Robertson
These days, the high cost of movies often prevents people from going out to see them, with people choosing instead to watch DVDs in their homes. Thus, enjoying a movie has become almost an individualistic ritual, completely removed from community.
Not so with the Film Forum of San Diego, introduced by Ralph and Carol DeLauro, who began showing movies at the old Central Library 30 years ago.
The Film Forum is still a weekly event at the new library, with between 25 and 100 people filling the auditorium every Monday night.
Carol DeLauro said that when she and Ralph were first dating back in the early ’80s, they would go to the old library and screen movies for fun in San Diego’s old “Greenwich Village West,” today’s Gaslamp District.
At the time, Ralph DeLauro lived in the historic Lincoln Hotel, which is still standing. Since cinema was his passion, he started showing films on the hotel’s rooftop. After about a year, he got the thumbs-up to bring the films to the library.
“That jump-started the Central Library screenings,” he said.
Everything from comedy to drama and foreign films to romances have entertained the fans that flock to the Central Library. When Film Forum celebrated its 30th anniversary in September, many of the people who have come to know and love DeLauro came to help him celebrate, some bringing food. The fans are faithful to Film Forum, and just as passionate about the media as DeLauro is.
“One couple who has come to the film programs at Central Library for many years recently donated money to the library, specifically for the Film Forum series,” Carol DeLauro said.
Nicholas Magri first discovered the Film Forum through The San Diego Reader when he was a student at UCSD in 1998.
“At that time, I’d look for anything of interest that was free and open to the public,” said Magri, who remembers Roman Polanski’s “Knife in the Water” as particularly poignant.
Magri attended the 30-year anniversary celebration.
“It was great to see the crowd that showed up and all the praise he received,” Magri said. “I like to think that I would be the one to take over whenever it is he decides to retire. I’d carry the torch; one film lover to another.”
Doug Diamond is another longtime devotee of the Film Forum.
“There had always been a relatively small but regular following at the old library, but we notice that the word is getting out that the viewing space is really great now, and there are more of the denizens of East Village showing up for a quick and easy bit of great film culture.
“And with the free underground parking most of the time, it is easier than ever,” Diamond said.
Michele Addington started attending the Film Forum program three years ago when she moved Downtown.
“I am a regular fan of this program,” she said. “The movie selection is very eclectic and opens the mind. I often leave feeling more like a human being than just a machine in this world.”
Social media has helped Film Forum become even more of a hit with people, thanks to Carol DeLauro, who has become the venue’s PR person.
“Now that I can no longer work as a hairstylist and a teacher because of my arthritis, I have been helping Ralph with the film programs,” she said.
DeLauro said she types up the monthly film schedules and sends them out to people on the mailing list. She also submits the film schedules to the media each month and manages the Film Forum Facebook page.
“It has been a challenge, but I find that I enjoy this work,” she said. “Now I am trying my hand at planning special events to enhance the Film Forum programs.”
She organized the forum’s anniversary celebration in September, and on another occasion, she contacted a filmmaker in Los Angeles and helped plan a special screening of his film, with a meet and greet before the film and a Q & A session after the film.
“Both of those events were a success and a lot of fun,” she said.
Film Forum’s most recent special evening was the first free mini-concert they’d ever produced, featuring Anna Lee Fleming and Raelee Nikole — two young San Diego singer-songwriters — before the film screening of “Begin Again,” which stars Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley.
Carol DeLauro said it was extra challenging to plan that evening since she had never before promoted a concert, but her hard work paid off; as did her husband’s, for nearly 120 people showed up for the evening.
“Ralph pulls it off like nobody else can, especially with art house movies that a lot of places don’t even show anymore,” said Peter Miesner, the art, music and recreation supervisor of the Central Library.
Ruth Turner, a newcomer to the Film Forum, went up to personally thank Ralph and Carol DeLauro for the evening.
“The music was wonderful, and the movie was one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Turner told them.
That’s the magic that keeps people coming to Film Forum.
DeLauro also holds film screenings at Point Loma Branch Library and the Mission Valley Branch Library. During December, Film Forum will screen “War Comes Home” at the Central Library, a film series curated by Rebecca Romani, a film teacher at San Diego State, Palomar College and US San Diego. Check future film screenings and events at facebook.com/FreeLibraryMovies.
—Cynthia Robertson is a local freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.