Centretown Movies back on track

Centretown Movies bounced back with a strong turnout for the Ecology Ottawa-hosted screening of Who Killed the Electric Car? July 25, after inclement weather forced the cancellation of the first film screening, Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, the previous week.

A few hundred people showed up to watch Chris Paine’s 2006 documentary about the death of the battery electric vehicle (specifically GM’s EV1 model) in the United States, laughing at George W. Bush doublespeak and cheering on the EV1 drivers as they protested the destruction of their cars.

Although it lapses into Michael Moore-style one-sidedness more than once, Who Killed the Electric Car? is still less a diatribe about Big Oil and the auto companies than it is a searing indictment of corporate greed and short-sighted human apathy. It focuses on the short-lived commercialization of the electric car in Southern California after the California Air Resources Board passed their 1990 Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate, and on how that mandate was brought down by lawsuits from oil manufacturers and auto companies supported by the Bush administration.

Ultimately, Paine’s film concludes that of the suspects for the “murder” of the electric car (the film opens with a mock funeral for the EV1) – namely the federal government, the California Air Resources Board, consumers themselves, the hydrogen fuel cell, electric battery technology, oil companies, and auto companies – all are guilty but one. Interviews include Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, and Ralph Nader, and with Martin Sheen as narrator, Who Killed the Electric Car has an easy time maintaining interest over its 90-minute running time.

As for the location, Dundonald Park at 512 Somerset St. W., aside from the occasional disturbance of a 747 passing overhead it becomes easy to forget you are watching a movie outdoors when you find yourself sitting on a comfortable pile of blankets, munching on home-popped popcorn or other snacks, watching a giant screen and listening to crystal clear sound. The experience may trigger nostalgia for the days of the drive-in theatre.

The stated goal of the organization behind Centretown Movies, to make use of multi-purpose spaces in the community and to bring members of that community together in a culturally meaningful and fun way, seems a bit more resonant, a bit less cliché, when hundreds of people, from toddlers to seniors, gather together for a thoroughly enjoyable movie screening in a park in the middle of Ottawa.

Centretown Movies is in its eighth year, but the administration and organization of the event has been taken over by a new group. Ali Arya, an assistant professor in Carleton’s School of Information Technology, said that while he and the rest of the new organizers have gratefully received advice and support from their predecessors, they have taken up the mantle and don’t intend to let the practice lapse.

“We are a new generation, and we thought this tradition was something that should be preserved, something that should continue, because these spaces are available and people really like to have something happening in them and really enjoy it,” Arya said.

Screenings will continue next week with The Constant Gardener and Transformers. Ratatouille rounds out the animated family entertainment, while classic movies have representation too in the form of Harold and Maude and John Huston’s unforgettable Bogart vehicle and film noir, The Maltese Falcon. Screenings start at 9pm, and the full schedule is available at www.centretownmovies.org.