If you travel in certain circles, you may have heard that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had decided to put its four-decade old weekend film program on hold. While the museum’s director, Michael Govan, has said this is only a temporary move, stopping these screenings of foreign and art films, as well as conversations with filmmakers, largely due to fewer attendees and likely having a little to do with the LACMA’s tight budgets and smaller staff, the decision has left people like film critic Kenneth Turan livid. He finds the temporary cutback as a stand-in for a larger problem at the museum, saying their temporary stand-still on a program they weren’t spending any time working with from the beginning, “sounds suspiciously like the apocryphal Vietnam War rationale that ‘we had to burn the village to save it.’” Although Turan apologies for being tough on museums in some of their darkest hours, he beautifully argues that maybe, beyond the endowment shrinking, it’s ideas such as this recent decision to stop the screenings, that have resulted in times being even more difficult for these institutions:
It is that contempt that is possibly the most distressing element in the entire LACMA equation. To shut this program down, in Los Angeles of all places, betrays both a disdain for the most vibrant of popular arts and a demeaning narrowness of vision about what Los Angeles wants and needs.
Make no mistake, the LACMA closure is an egregious slap in the face to those who believe in film as perhaps the most alive and vibrant of the arts. The fact that it’s coming from the very people whose job it is to protect and promote, makes the whole sad scenario sadder still.