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Unable to Host Physical Screenings, Portland’s Church of Film Started Its Own Streaming Service

Each movie is full of strange, striking images and strays far from Hollywood's readymade narrative structures and tidy resolutions—and none of them are on major streaming services.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

For Muriel Lucas, being stuck in quarantine with only Netflix to watch would be a nightmare.

"I think I would go insane," says Lucas. "There are a lot of wonderful things on Netflix, sure. But it's a homogenous product."

So not long after the governor's stay-at-home order, Lucas, curator of the beloved pop-up screening series Church of Film, decided to start what's essentially its own streaming service on Vimeo.

Lucas scours the internet for high-quality versions of obscure cinematic gems, most of which have never been distributed in the U.S. Since 2013, Lucas has been screening finds—prefaced each time by a scholarly, enthusiastic spiel by Lucas—mostly for free around the city.

Before the pandemic, Church of Film held three screenings a week, at Psychic Bar, Century and Clinton Street Theater, respectively. Now that theaters and video rental stores are closed, movie watching is essentially limited to the mostly canonical offerings of streaming services.

So for the past two months, Lucas has been uploading full movies to Church of Film's Vimeo page, all of which are free to watch.

Dubbed Church of Film TV, the page is now host to dozens of films, from Sarah Maldoror's anti-colonial masterpiece Sambizanga, to the beautiful and bizarre Brazilian proto-slasher flick The Devil Queen, geological horror, surrealist fairy tales, and Anne and Eve, which Lucas accurately describes as a "scandalous lesbian yarn of orgies and murder."

Each movie is full of strange, striking images and strays far from Hollywood's readymade narrative structures and tidy resolutions. And none of them are on major streaming services.

Lucas talked to WW about Church of Film's recent finds, learning Czech and why we shouldn't trust streaming giants.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.