Are your plans to see a film ever thwarted because admission prices are so high? Do you yearn to see art house or foreign films without having to travel to film festivals around the world? You are not alone. Creator of the new Refocus Film Series, Jeffrey Wright, hopes to expose Torontonians to smaller films that “we wouldn’t otherwise hear about.”

So how did this idea come about? Jeffrey used to program forthe Over the Top Festival, which was an all ages music, film and arts festival in Toronto, and ran for 8 years. With that festival on hiatus, Jeffrey decided to “start a screening series of [his] own because [he] was still seeing films that [he] loved and that nobody else was screening in Over the Top’s absence.” Jeffrey calls Refocus a “passion project,” and his dedication and love for discovering and exposing unique films at the expense of his own bank account is admirable. Along with the help of fellow film lovers Aliza Ma, Daniel Goodbaum, and Anam Abbas, Refocus promises to bring a different kind of viewing experience to Toronto audiences. And they are going to let you have these experiences free of charge.  

But nothing comes without a price these days, right? Refocus’ admission price is not cash value. Instead, Jeff asks that people who attend the screenings ­”“ which will be held in different spots around the city”“ find a way to share their viewing experience and their opinions on the films in a variety of ways. By writing about the screenings on one’s blog, by donating money to the Refocus blog or to the filmmakers of the movies that are screened, or by telling your friends about what you saw, including by sites such as Facebook or Twitter, you are helping to spread the word that there is a demand for smaller films which aren’t getting wide releases.

This is the aim of the series”“ to screen films which are deserving of, but which do not necessarily have, North American distribution. Because films offer viewers a space for us to ponder and to feel, the potential to create a community of filmgoers is so strong, but is so often ignored because movie-going is often seen as an individual experience in a large, dark, and privately owned theatre, which makes most of its money off of popcorn sales. Refocus’ screenings will take place in unconventional places where film fans will be able to watch good movies, meet people with similar interests, and be convinced and encouraged to “put on similar screening events.”

Jeffrey programs the films in a variety of ways by “requesting screeners from filmmakers, having films passed on to him by programmer friends, and by seeing films at festivals in other cities.” When asked what he is hoping to achieve with his series, Jeffrey answers, “in a perfect world, I want Refocus to be a gathering place where people get just as excited for new films by Ben Wheatley, Jody Lee Lipes, Yoshihiro Nakamura, or Joe Swanberg as they do for a new films by the Coen Brothers, Lars von Trier, Wong Kar-wai, or Hirokazu Kore-eda.”

The first screening is taking place this Wednesday, the 29th at 8pm at Ezra’s Pound. The featured film is from the UK”“ Ben Wheatley’s, Down Terrace . The film tells the story of two small time gangsters who head home after serving time in prison. Once home, tensions rise and paranoia takes over. The film has won a plethora of awards including Best UK Feature at the Raindance Film Festival and it was a featured selection of the Fantasia Festival in Montreal. If gangster isn’t your style, stay tuned to Refocus’ Twitter, blog or Facebook page for updates and info on future screenings.