San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Film Club Offers Free Movies, English Practice

It was Thursday evening, and I had just come home from work. The idea of going to watch a movie at 6 p.m. wasn’t exactly appealing to me; but then again, it was almost the weekend. On second thought, I’d be surrounded by fellow movie fans, and at the end of the screening we would get to talk about the movie we had just watched.

Tonight’s movie was George A. Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”Wait a minute – the original “Night of The Living Dead?” With no entrance fee? And I get to practice my English?

I’m there.

When I got there at about a quarter to six, the chairs were still empty. A special area was designated for our movie enjoyment at the Mark Twain Library in the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center (CCCN), in the eastern San José neighborhood of Barrio Dent. Surrounded by (quiet) books, we would sit and watch the iconic 1968 movie that has served as a mold for horror films ever since.

This and more was discussed afterward, among the mostly Tico crowd who turned up to enjoy a great night of classic movie watching and also take a shot at practicing English. And that’s precisely the idea behind the Film Club, hosted every Thursday evening by the CCCN and organized by an unlikely trio from the west side of San José.

Caroline Kennedy, Ricardo Jiménez and Gunnar Kihl are three movie fans from different parts of the world who came together because of their love of cinema.

Kennedy, a British writer who lives in the western suburb of Escazú, is president of the Little Theatre Group, in charge of stage production and the like. Jiménez, a Costa Rican psychologist, gave us the introductory remarks on Thursday’s show and shared his movie wisdom with all of us afterward.

He is also directing an upcoming play, “Hysteria,” which he describes as “Dali meets Freud” – groovy. Kihl is a freelance TV producer from Norway who is in Costa Rica enjoying the country and watching movies with us Ticos.

Kennedy first went to the CCCN to see if she could set up a play there. When she revealed that she was part of a movie-watching club in Escazú, the idea to bring it over to the east side of town was inevitable.

Organizing on behalf of the CCCN is Sandra Candamo, who was kind enough to provide us with information regarding the activity and also upcoming shows for the month (see sidebar).

Mostly Ticos

About 20 people made it there that evening, and I started scanning around for Ticos and Gringos. The only foreigners that night were Kennedy and Kihl; the rest were Ticos, young and old, from teenagers to senior citizens.

The movie started and at once we were all enraptured by the old black-and-white images projected on the screen. The film was shown using a video projector (not a 35 mm projector as one would hope), but the size was excellent and the sound good, though it could have been better.

Watching an old movie always makes you laugh at certain parts that weren’t originally meant to be funny. Cinema has evolved so much over the decades – especially if you take into account that the art of making movies has been around for only about a hundred years – that what past filmmakers thought to be poignant and serious scenes can be pretty humorous to present-day audiences.

For example, seeing Barbra (Judith O’Dea) freak out at the sight of the undead cracked me up, even knowing that in 1968 it was surely a heightened scary scene that kept audiences at the edge of their seats. But here is the marvel of this film: as the movie progresses into the climax, you really feel the tension that has been building up. After almost 40 years since its original release, you still get the chills.

And it’s not because of the undead, mind you. The scare factor in the movie is as effective now as it was then, because in the end, we are scarier than the living dead. Telling you more at this point would be to give the movie away, and, even after four decades, I’d rather not. I’ll let you check it out for yourselves.

I definitely recommend this film to anyone who has an interest in the human condition. As Jiménez said during the postmovie discussion, this film was released in a  time of great social turmoil in the UnitedStates, and the film works to mirror that situation in many aspects.

After the movie, it was our turn to talk and express our points of view. Though most audience members were clearly a bit nervous about expressing themselves in English, Adriana Hidalgo, a 28-year-old workplace psychologist from the northeastern suburb of Moravia, decided to break the silence and talk about scary movies in general. It was inevitable for her to mention Albert Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick as masters of the genre. She was accompanied by her father, Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) worker Manuel Hidalgo. He, too, participated in the discussion.

Organizers hope that by some time next year the activity will have its own screening room. For now, every Thursday night is movie lover’s night at the CCCN.

See you there.

Film Club Info

Films are shown every Thursday at 6 p.m., at the Costa Rican-North American Cultural Center (CCCN) in Barrio Dent. Discussions in English take place afterward. For more information, call 207-7500 or e-mail

Nov. 15 Open choice.

Nov. 22 “Look Back in Anger” (1958), starring Richard Burton, Mary Ure and Claire Bloom, directed by Tony Richardson.

Nov. 29 “Once Were Warriors” (1994), starring Rena Owen, directed by Lee Tamahori.


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