Open Air Movie Nights
Reno, NV 89523
The River School is a geographic obscurity. Its cross streets are Fourth and Woodland, nearly the last left turn before California. The outer floor is desert, and the view beyond the stage, on which I’ve seen a few bands play to fire and dust, contains various plants and the Truckee River. At night, you are allowed to resume your relationship with the stars.
It’s here, on Tuesday and Friday nights, in accord with sundown, that Elias and Robin Dechent display movies independent, nonlinear, radical. They call them Open Air Movie Nights, and they are presented by the Dechents’ start-up group, The Artemisia. Elias and Robin were married at the River School in February, which inadvertently produced this marriage of film and landscape.
“They asked us because they had more or less a similar idea to get movies out here, and we had the movies,” says Elias.
The Open Air Movie Nights are intended to rally support for the construction of a new independent theater in Reno, an idea the Dechents have fostered for some time.
“Independent movies were something we enjoyed when we lived in Germany,” says Robin. “When we thought about coming back to Reno, we realized it was something that doesn’t exist yet. So we thought that we should start it.”
“We came here and started a survey with people interested in independent movies and started looking for venues,” Elias said. “We figured out it was pretty hard. You have to invest quite a bit of money before you can get it started.”
In their diverse selection of independently produced films, the couple hopes to provide a rich array of perspectives and ideas. They also prefer to inaugurate their biweekly screening with a local short film. On June 15, they showed local artist Toshadeva Palani’s [re]birth, in which a half-naked man endures both internal and environmental transformation.
“We haven’t had enough local shorts to show at every screening,” says Elias. “It’s something people might like or maybe not, but it’s something totally different, and we can show them something about Reno.”
After [re]birth, they showed Ajami, a film that observes the Jewish-Arab conflict in Israel. A neighborhood of family and friends are viewed as both victims of and direct actors in their own undoing. The principal character at the start of the film, Omar, is chased by a blood debt, which results in his neighbor’s accidental murder. The focus shifts to a young illegal Palestinian immigrant, working in the same restaurant as Omar in order to pay for his mother’s medical expenses and then shifts again to a Jewish cop looking for his brother, a missing soldier. The stories seem at first disparate, tragic limbs linked by haphazard surgery, but everything coheres in the film’s compositional valence without the cheap sidesteps of one American analogue, Paul Haggis’ Crash. These are just sad incidents, united by geography and culture. These characters are not concerned with transformation or transcendence. They only long to keep their blood on the inside, where it belongs.
“They’re different kind of movies that you don’t get in normal theaters,” says Elias. “You actually start thinking about things you’ve never thought about before. You get to see things like different countries and different stories you can connect with. And you start to discuss with other people about it. It opens your mind a little bit.”