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I had been looking forward to the screening not only because Yellow is hard to see in the U.S., but because it was supposed to take place in the ballroom of the Drake Hotel. What a memorable experience it would have been to sit inside a historic luxury hotel on the Mag Mile and watch a three-hour cri de coeur about social injustice in the Philippines. Oh well—I've watched movies in beautiful old ballrooms before. Several years ago the Romanian Cultural Exchange presented a series of films at the Stan Mansion in Logan Square, and I got to see Cristi Puiu's debut film Stuff and Dough in the expansive main room of the first floor. That movie is also difficult to come by in the U.S., and the venue made the screening feel even more like a special event.
I experienced something similar this past spring when I attended the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. The festival selected the Tiger Hotel (built in 1928) as one of its venues, converting the recently renovated ballroom into a charming cinematheque. The sound and projection weren't optimal, but the atmosphere more than made up for that. I felt as though I was taking part in a meaningful cultural exchange, as the people of Columbia welcomed the visiting films by inviting them into one of the city's most impressive architectural achievements. Compared with the Chicago International Film Festival, which for the past few years has barely ventured outside of the River East 21, I found True/False more ingratiating and more conducive to a sense of curiosity.