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LARGE POPCORN, EXTRA BUTTER: Films We Like, and ones you will too

Jason Asbell writes about two new films coming to the Civic Theatre
Sun Ra is one of the musicians profiled in Fire Music: A History of the Free Jazz Revolution at the Civic Theatre on Nov. 10. Photo: Submitted

by Jason Asbell

There is an independent film distribution company here in Canada called Films We Like. I like this name. It speaks for itself. It says, we may not be giving you blockbusters guaranteed to tax your box office POS machines, but we are going to offer films that we stand behind, because we like them ourselves.

I’m not going to lie, I liked our most recently screened blockbuster, Dune, a lot, but there is a broader cinema, an international cinema, a domestic cinema, an independent cinema, a nuanced cinema that doesn’t get its fair share of screen time. We like these cinemas and I think you will too, given the opportunity. So, following an encore blockbuster romp through, No Time To Die, Friday, Nov. 5 - Tuesday, Nov. 9, we are screening a pair of new releases from the Films We Like catalogue.

In a triumphant return to our semi-regular Documentary Wednesday on Nov. 10, I am excited to bring Fire Music: A History of the Free Jazz Revolution, to see the musical innovators, and especially to hear the sonic freedom on the cinema’s amazing sound system.

“One default reaction to the musical form called free jazz — Ornette Coleman’s phrase for this improvised, experimental style of jazz — has long been that it’s ‘not music.’ This concise but cogent documentary directed by Tom Surgal is crammed with exhilarating sounds, moving reminiscences and stimulating arguments that it is not just music, but vital music.” — New York Times

Then in true Thursday night movie fashion, we take a world trip and visit Kobe, Japan, in 1940, on the eve of the outbreak of World War II with Wife of a Spy on Nov. 11 (Remembrance Day). Master filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse, Cure, Tokyo Sonata) won the Silver Lion (Best Director) at the Venice Film Festival for this riveting, gorgeously crafted, old-school Hitchockian thriller.

Local merchant and amateur filmmaker Yusaku (Issey Takahashi, Kill Bill) senses that things are headed in an unsettling direction. Following a trip to Manchuria, he becomes determined to bring to light the things he witnessed there and secretly filmed. Meanwhile, his wife Satoko (Japan Society’s 2021 Honoree Yû Aoi) receives a visit from her childhood friend, now a military policeman. He warns her about Yusaku’s seditious ways and reveals that a woman her husband brought back from his trip has died. Satoko confronts Yusaku, but when she discovers his true intentions, she is torn between loyalty to her husband, the life they have built, and the country they call home.

So to wrap up, here’s my mixed message: I know I said some films are about the art rather than the money, but we need these to be about both. I’m not supposed to program films about free jazz at the moment while we are financially trying to recover from a hard couple of years of forced closures and restriction, but I want to believe that cinemas are still home to the films we like as well as big spectacle, and keep niche Canadian distributors in the business of sharing great stories from around the world.

Please show you support this type of programming by coming out to either Fire Music, or Wife of a Spy, or consider becoming a member or making a donation to The Civic Theatre. Tickets are available at

Jason Asbell is the Programming Director and free-form kazoo improviser for The Civic Theatre