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A Brief History of Cinechats

Join us for the world’s best movies!

Come see movies that will stir your imagination, engage your emotions, and make you think — movies

Cinechats was nominated for the Art of Transition Creative Award in 2012. The award was designed by the prominent Durham sculptor (and Cinechats regular) Edward Falkenberg.

with powerful stories and award-caliber performances.  The Cinechats Film Program is an acclaimed weekly — and year-round! — series of the best motion pictures from around the world.  It’s like the Toronto International Film Festival, but it’s right here in suburbia — and without all the immodest hype.  Instead, we have an optional master class in film after each week’s film, a seminar that takes the form of a lively informal conversation.  Thus far, over 27,000 people have attended Cinechats, which aims to educate, enlighten, and entertain its viewers and to inspire them to think critically about issues of the day (everything from war and peace, the deindustrialization of the West, the workplace emancipation of women, the struggle against injustices like apartheid and internecine conflict, and the moral person’s response to violence).  And there are intimate family dramas about the way people live in other parts of the world.

We’ve even had a world-premiere (of a short film by a Vancouver filmmaker) and numerous exclusive presentations of films that were never released commercially in North America.  One might not ordinarily think of Oshawa and Venice in the same breath, but in one notable instance, a major new European film came to Oshawa directly from the prestigious Venice International Film Festival, before it even opened in its home country! From time to time, we have also showcased short films, including a new work from a film collective based right here in Durham Region.

A ground-breaking, not-for-profit educational collaboration between Artsforum, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), Durham College, and the Durham Council for the Arts, Cinechats makes continuing community education accessible and compelling.  A past president of UOIT said that Cinechats is an invaluable asset for UOIT and Durham College because of its inimitable “humanizing function” in an academic setting that is otherwise largely devoted to technical subjects.  And, to prove his point, one UOIT student declared that attending Cinechats was ‘the highlight of his time at university!’

In 2012 (and again in 2014), Cinechats was nominated for the Art of Transition Creative Award.  Our audience is enthusiastic, fiercely loyal, and not in the least cliquish; indeed, newcomers are at their ease from the moment they walk through the door.  Cinechats is a place for the creative exchange of ideas and for joyous continuing education. It puts to the lie the all too prevalent noxious notion that suburbia in general, and Durham Region in particular, is not a place where one can strive for and expect the very best in any area of endeavor.  Cinechats celebrates excellence as much as it does innovation; and it weekly rises to the challenge to demonstrate that big things, great things even, can happen (and thrive) in the most unexpected places.

Contact us through Artsforum to learn more.

Copyright © August 2013 by John Arkelian.


What Our Filmgoers Have to Say

“As a student at UOIT, I am thankful for Cinechats’ offering such a rich alternative to the revelry of university life.  Cinechats’ broad interactivity of thought is a wonderful on-campus example of how collective community intelligence can thrive.  My student friends and I find Cinechats’ morally enriching because the films and group discussions contemplate moral issues we never would have thought of on our own.  Thank you, Cinechats, for two years of filling my mind with the emotional, political, and moral insights of the community and the world.”

Daniel S.
Durham Region, Ontario

“It is a distinct privilege to have such a high-quality cultural experience delivered in a very professional manner — a worthy rival for the Toronto International Film Festival.  We (like the films) originate in many different countries and bring individual world views and experiences to our shared cultural oasis.  Cinechats is a unique service of the highest caliber for those seeking thought-provoking entertainment with a sharp educational edge.”

Lisbeth L. & Charlie W.
Toronto, Ontario

“As a confessed film addict, I often bemoaned the bland offerings at local theaters.  Occasionally, a few palatable movies would crop up at Oscar and Golden Globe season.  Craving the insightful, the meaningful, and the thought-provoking creations of independent and forward thinking directors/producers, I found myself haunting the back corners of local video stores.  After my first attendance I exclaimed, “I think I found my people!” However, what truly makes this [film program] different from any other is the intelligent and lively exchange of ideas that follow.  The audience is filled with people from diverse professions, ages, and dare I say, varying mind-sets.  The conversations are passionate, intimate and often provoking.  Anyone who attends Cinechats, especially those who have been going for years, will tell you the secret of its success is its fearless leader, John Arkelian.  His careful selections and pre-film treatments are always delivered in an engaging, thoughtful, and (when the feature calls for it) humorous manner.  His follow-up comments and questions always stir the mind and loosen the tongue.”

Sheila R.
Courtice Ontario

“In 2011, I worked at UOIT as an international research assistant from Germany and soon found out about Cinechats and joined it as often as I could.  It has been an amazing experience for me, since it not only shows many niche movies which really deserve more public attention by reaching a broader audience, but also for the unique setting: not the anonymity of a normal movie theater, but lots of people willing to share their thoughts.  Not to forget about John Arkelian, who has a really keen sense of picking fantastic movies of different genres and even more of describing the movies’ environment, actors’ involvement, and their main themes.  John always made me think and consider the meaning of a movie much more than I would have ever done by myself.  Cinechats has been an enriching experience for me….  I often thought that this brilliant model of the Cinechats concept should be transferred to other places around the world.”

Belinda M.
Frankfurt, Germany

“As a lover of movies I was delighted to learn of this fine [film program]…  Movies, to me, have always been a reflection of life…  I think this is very important to be able to understand other peoples and our differences and yet how we are all similar in so many ways.  We have been privileged to be able to view movies that have never been seen before in North America and I don’t know of any other place where this would happen on a regular weekly basis.”

Bill R.
Whitby, Ontario

“Cinechats is unique.  Cinechats is the only venue that offers and encourages lively discussion at the end of the film.  It’s so interesting to hear the different points of view generated by sharing the same experience.  Where else can you enjoy great films and offer your own movie review on the spot?”

Tina I.
Whitby, Ontario

“Since its inception eight and a half years ago, Cinechats has become a beacon in an all-too-often barren field of cinematic viewing. Those of us fortunate enough to have been patrons (including myself, from the beginning) have been richly rewarded by the caliber of films on offer from all over the world, many of which we would otherwise never have had the opportunity of seeing.  This program [is] unique to the Durham Region.  I know of no other film program which in any way compares.  It’s a program we should be truly proud of and award the recognition it truly deserves.”

Nora R.
Courtice, Ontario

“Rarely these days, do you find the opportunity to be exposed to award winning films that are not readily available, engage with like-minded people, and find cultural entertainment …just blocks from home in Durham region!  The host of Cinechats, John Arkelian, brings the world to us through the films that he carefully researches and selects.  His provocative interactive dialogue afterward exposes us to the diversity of the minds and hearts in the audience, and we leave after an evening feeling inspired and enriched!”

Susan R.
Oshawa, Ontario

“Cinechats has always sounded like such a great idea — something I’d love to do around here if there was any interest, which, sadly, there’s not.  And I am envious of the number of people who regularly turn out for your films.”

Milan Paurich
(A film critic in Youngstown, Ohio)

“Individuals with a shared love of cinema can attend your weekly screening of a critically acclaimed film — on a big screen – and have the opportunity to stick around for your detailed, insightful and often humorous take on the stories told.  This “chat” afforded each member of the audience a voice, and also the opportunity for reflection.  In this manner, the movies, and their messages, often stayed with us long after we left the theatre.  Back on the topic of the movies themselves, your selections often feel like the best of the best; not only consisting of domestic gems, but routinely introducing viewers to critically acclaimed foreign films that, realistically, would have otherwise remained ‘foreign’ to many of us.  Not only that, but on more than a handful of occasions, audience members were treated (can I admit to even feeling a little ‘privileged’) to take in some ‘North American’ premieres of films.”

Dan L.
Whitby, Ontario

“Why Cinechatsis the best entertainment in Durham:  Not too long ago, I could have only dreamed of indulging in watching stimulating movies once a week!  Since discovering Cinechat’s a few years ago, I have been singing its praises to many.  My only fear was that it would become too popular!  Week after week, I continue to have a great seat… with passionate people, who also appreciate art films.  John is the “Man” on Thursday evenings.  He shares his sharp wit, time, and experience, with all, for his love of movies.  He conducts a thought provoking, entertaining, discussion after each film.  It seems very fitting that these viewings take place in a college & university setting, since I feel I learn from them, every week”

Joanne B.
Courtice, Ontario

“The movie was brilliant – just what we all needed, except I had a tear in my eye. I cannot remember the last time that happened to me over a movie.”

Norma H.
Oshawa, Ontario

“Thanks so much for bringing us these provocative/evocative films, John.  I’m very grateful to you for providing me with so much food for thought.”

Carol S.
Whitby, Ontario

“John, this is also a good time to express some appreciation for the gift I feel you have given to those of us in the weekly audience.  I am still utterly amazed at the quality of films you manage to acquire for us all and the depth and range of comments.  Quite an ongoing fascination!  You can’t beat it for a good night out with a bunch of enthusiasts and the camaraderie that so quickly develops with one’s seat-mates.”

Margot & Jerry N.
Durham Region, Ontario

“With your leadership and commitment, Cinechats has become a valuable institution that Oshawa can be very proud of.  For this, we all are most grateful.”

Robert & Caroline K.
Oshawa, Ontario

“As a new member I just wanted to relate how stimulated I was by your film… Immediately after the film I found myself regretting the 250 plus evenings I have missed.  Your wit, passion, and acumen must be obvious to all who attend.  The audience comments after the film demonstrated to me the power of great films to move all minds and souls.  Keep up the great work bringing culture to them that need it most.”

Fred H.
Oshawa, Ontario

“I am a resident of Pennsylvania, USA, too far away to attend Cinechats; however, I have received the weekly e-mails for years and have wished from the start that I could view many of the films.  How fortunate Canada is to have this innovative program.”

Kathie F.
Manchester, Pennsylvania

“I must tell you that I am genuinely captivated by your topic selections….  I think you are an excellent guide and offer compelling topics for personal reflections that give opportunity for tremendous benefit.”

Barbara V.
Oshawa, Ontario

“I am a huge fan of Cinechats…  John opens not only our eyes but our minds:  it’s a beautiful thing!”

Paula K.
Oshawa Ontario

“Aside from its wonderfully varied selection of movies from all over the world, and aside from the lively, and at times, heated discussions following a screening, we feel that John Arkelian has not only created a core of loyal followers, but that he has turned a film audience into a community.  We have all benefitted greatly from his enthusiasm and his evident love of film.  Being a member of Cinechats has filled a cultural void in the area and is a continued delight.”

Barbara & Constantin P.
Orono, Ontario

“Who amongst us has not wanted to talk about a good film after watching one?  Cinechats fulfills this common need to do so!  Cinechats has thrivedbecause it addresses a creative need in the community, and I am pleased to be a loyal attendee since the inception of the project.  The “humanizing function” of Cinechats is a significant and important one, as a past President of UOIT, has said.  Horizons are widened and varying attitudes, perspectives and opinions are seen and heard in a friendly, informal, and cultured, yet “non-academic,” setting — all this on a weekly basis.  Cinechats is indeed a uniquely special project.  Cinechats is evidence that Durham is truly transitioning. Having lived in numerous major cities in several countries and having returned to “my hometown” in suburbia, I am pleased that the unique Cinechats is offered on my doorstep…  I am delighted that Cinechats has flourished in Durham, it has increased community engagement in the arts.  A wide variety of people from the region and points beyond regularly attend, including visitors from many other places in Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa and Australasia as well as a frequent returning guest from Michigan.  Educated and educating, intelligent and poignant, and often lively and spirited, Cinechats is an innovative project spearheaded by Artsforum Magazine’s editor John Arkelian.”

Stephania M.T.
Oshawa, Ontario

“Thank you John, for the wonderful selection of films you offer through Cinechats.  They truly are a breath of fresh air and a source of inspiration, discussion, and entertainment.  I appreciate the time, effort, personal comments, and background information you provide.”

Evelyn R.
Durham Region, Ontario

“I do want to thank you though for the nearly two years that I have been attending your movies.  I can quite honestly say that the experience has changed my movie viewing forever.  I was once an action adventure escapism movie attendee.  I have learned through your movies and discussion afterwards (by the way often the best part) that nothing is in a movie for no reason.  I thank you for this.”

Alan S.
Prince Edward County, Ontario

“It has been a pleasure for us to attend your thoughtfully selected movies over the last eighteen months or so — such a pleasant change from the run of the mill fare generally available, greatly enhanced by your commentaries.”

John & Alys M.
Durham Region, Ontario

“I’ve been meaning to write to thank you for some time.  I moved to Whitby from the Chicago area last year after marrying my lovely Canadian bride.  Besides my in-laws located in Hamilton, I didn’t know a soul in the area.  One of my concerns was finding good films to watch this far from the city center.  Your presentations at Cinechats have addressed that nicely.  I’ve enjoyed the films and discussion very much.  This was especially important when I was new to the country.  Sitting in the dark with kindred souls appreciating the artful flicker helped me feel more at home.  So, thank you for your good work.  It has value beyond what you might expect.”

Dave S.
Whitby, Ontario

“Congratulations on all the work you have put into this project.  We are not always able to attend, but when we do we always are glad that we did. We feel blessed to have you sort out the wheat from the chaff and would have missed many great films without you.”

Mike & Carole K.
Durham Region, Ontario

“Although I don’t attend your viewings often, I do look forward to reading the weekly selections and enjoy your insightful comments about them.  Unfortunately, Thursdays are difficult for me because of other important scheduled events…  However, I do sneak away sometimes and indulge myself with your films.  I appreciate what you do this for our community.  Thank you for your steadfast commitment to independent film.  It’s a special treat in a Hollywood glut…  I thank you again, John, with heartfelt sincerity.  Don’t ever give this up — please!”

Carol S.
Whitby, Ontario

“Yours is the best arts event going!”

Nancy H.
Durham Region, Ontario

“I am writing to express our thanks for your ongoing, much appreciated, bringing of movies and interesting commentaries and insights to us.  Alys and I look forward to and greatly enjoy your showings – and your commentaries before and after the movies.  Again, many thanks for continuing ‘Cinechats.’”

John & Alys M.
Durham Region, Ontario

“I want to let you know I thoroughly enjoy your comments and find it rewarding to hear from so many in the audience, who have, in my opinion, great insight.  Without doubt, Cinechats would be in my top ten of most pleasurable activities….  I do appreciate the time you put into providing us with such well-informed critical appraisals of the films.”

Liz H.
Durham Region, Ontario

“Thank you for all the fun, sad, thought-provoking, exciting movies I’ve seen with your group.  Much success for the future!”

Karen H.
Formerly of Durham Region, Ontario

“Thank you, John, for all of the energy and focus you bring to finding and showing great films.  You are a Durham Region (and no doubt, beyond) treasure.”

Bill & Joyce E.
December 2016
Port Perry, Ontario

“I want to thank for my time attending the presentations. I appreciated them very much.  I must say, I enjoyed the various themes – and how enlightened I felt after the viewings!”

Bill W.
February 2017
Durham Region

“We intend to join you to celebrate 12 years of Cinechats.  Thank you so much for doing such an amazing job in hosting Cinechats every week!”

Susan & Brian B.
March 2017
Durham Region

“How wonderful the way everyone celebrated Cinechats’ 12th!  You have developed an impressive list of loyal and generous followers over the years…  Bravo!”

Sue R.
March 2017
Oshawa, Ontario

“Congratulations on reaching 500 films John!   A testament to your focus, effort, engagement, and delivery!”

Sue R.
April 2017
Oshawa, Ontario

Unfortunately, we are moving east and will be unable to attend the screenings in the future.  Good luck [and] thank you for all the good work you do to provide top class movies in Durham Region.”

Cheryl & Charlie R.
September 2017
Formerly of Durham Region

“Just wanted to say how much I loved (or is that the wrong word when there is so much violence) the films last night.  I wasn’t sure whether to go running in the rain, drink excessive amounts of whiskey or dust off my Greek tragedies and hole up in my room with a box of kleenex.  The feature was one of the best films I have seen.    Also, as a dressage rider, I really loved it in the short film when the character asked if the young man was crazy and the answer was, ‘No, he knows what dressage is.’  Thanks so much for organizing such great films.”

Diane B.
March 2018
Durham Region

Filmgoers’ comments © 2013-18 by Artsforum Magazine.