Carbon Arc Profile: Donna de Ville

Returning to our semi-regular feature on the Writer-in-Residence blog, here is another one of the core Carbon Arc programmers.

Donna de Ville has a PhD in Communication Studies, and has taught film and media studies courses at universities in the United States and Canada, including at Mount Saint Vincent. She’s been involved with film programming at several organizations including SxSW in Austin, Texas, and has published work in Film History, Scope, Incite, The Canadian Journal of Film Studies, as well as a chapter in Cinema Inferno: Celluloid Explosions from the Cultural Margins.


Here are the seven questions I asked her, and her kind responses: 

What was the first movie you remember seeing in the cinema, and where did you see it? 

Grease. It probably wasn’t the first I had seen in the cinema, but it is the first I went to without my parents and that I can clearly remember. It was at a cinema near my hometown in New Jersey.


I became obsessed with the film after seeing it—immediately went out and bought the LP and proceeded to commit all the songs to heart. Then that summer I “produced” a theatrical version of it that my friends and I performed in my backyard for our families. I gave myself the two lead roles, my friends were the supporting characters, and my poor younger brother was cast as “Greased Lightning,” the car.

What film have you watched more than any other? 

Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.


Who is your favourite filmmaker? 

After amassing a list of more than 15 directors, I realized this is an impossible question for me to answer. There are many directors who have made somewhere in the vicinity of 3-6 films that I love, blown my mind even, but of all the directors who I admire greatly, none have a filmography without a film I dislike. It’s probably easiest to say that, Classic Hollywood films aside, I gravitate toward films that either visually or narratively break with popular cinematic conventions and with the major studios’ mainstream formulas aimed at mass audiences for the greatest profit. Examples of directors who I think do this: Wong Kar-Wai, David Lynch, and Guy Maddin. I tend to appreciate films that examine the darker side of humanity and either don’t offer a happy resolution or any resolution at all—films that leave viewers wondering what it was they just viewed and require them to draw their own conclusions. Along those lines, I have recently become enthralled with the films of Ben Wheatley. And then there are the older, prolific directors like Hitchcock and Fellini whose bodies of work I continue to return to.


Is there an area or genre of film you feel you know and love the most? 

Horror, southern gothic, film noir and 1930s/1940s women’s melodrama.

What do you enjoy most about programming at Carbon Arc? 

I most enjoy being around other cinephiles watching and discussing film, and being part of a fantastic programming team who bring high quality, otherwise not-to-be-seen-on-the-big-screen films to Halifax.

What film have you enjoyed most since you started working with Carbon Arc, and why? 

The Russian Woodpecker and The Invitation. These two films, quite different from one another, best represent the types of films, both aesthetically and subject-wise, I would seek out on my own. Artful and intelligent, quirky docs and genre film are hard to come by on the big screen, and even more so in a market dominated by one big box theatre chain.


What kinds of films would you like to see more of in the future at Carbon Arc?

I think my personal taste in film is a bit too niche, and probably too dark, for Carbon Arc’s devoted regulars. While I love and am completely content to continue offering really strong international and national art house films, I would also like to try developing another branch of programming that would appeal to genre film fans. Thrillema devotes itself to showing classic cult films, which is a much needed and appreciated endeavour, but there is currently nowhere in town, except perhaps a few festival screenings, that shows contemporary new release indie paracinema: horror, psychological thrillers, sci-fi, fantastic films, etc.