BY DANIELLE PAQUETTE
This April, Meryl Streep — yes, the three-time Oscar-winning actress (who is married to Don Gummer, a sculptor from Indianapolis) — will visit the Indiana University Cinema to discuss her decades-long career in film.
Snagging A-list Hollywood talent is a coup for the venue, which opened just three years ago in the heart of the Bloomington campus. But it’s not surprising. Under cinema director Jon Vickers’ guidance, the theater has hosted more than 60 film notables, including French director Claire Denis, screenwriter Paul Schrader, German filmmaker Werner Herzog, and actress Glenn Close. They attended screenings, answered audience questions, and mingled with students — a star-powered portion of the cinema’s regular educational programing, and a real-life glimpse at where hard work may lead in the industry.
“Our reputation keeps growing, and people keep coming,” says Vickers, who previously managed the University of Notre Dame’s performing arts center. “That’s the mission. We want to be known as a world-class facility.”
On any given night, the cinema screens a film open to the public for free or between $3 and $9. Topics skip from culture to culture and country to country. This spring, community cinephiles had the opportunity to experience French romance, Hollywood classics, East Asian horror, and a Haitian baseball documentary — and that’s just a sampling. A February series featured the work of American writer William S. Burroughs, who would have turned 100 this year. In April, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami will showcase eight of his films examining life in Iran.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to expose viewers to something they otherwise might have never encountered,” Vickers says. “We strive to continuously do that.”
His job, he says, focuses both on programming by “filtering out all of the noise and trying to bring good film to audience” and exhibiting, or creating a quality film experience through presentation, greeting, and the aura of the cinema itself — the 1930s WPA murals on the walls included.
It helps that IU President Michael McRobbie is a fervent movie lover who has called film “the art form of our time.” While interviewing for the cinema leadership role in 2010, Vickers says McRobbie made his goal crystal clear: “We will be the best university cinema in the world.”