Catch Mr. Rugoff tonight!

Last night I saw Searching for Mr. Rugoff, an important documentary about the business of independent cinema. It will screen tonight, at 6:45, at the Roxie. I don’t know when it will screen, or stream, again.

If you love independent cinema, you must watch this film. Which is why I am writing a short, and probably badly-edited article, about it rather than holding this small review to another date.

Much of independent films and independent theaters may never have happened without Donald Rugoff. In the ’60s and ’70s, he built theaters and distributed films and helped make cinema disconnected from Hollywood. But until very recently, I had never heard of him. And yet, I did know about his distribution and theater company, Cinema 5. Films he brought to American theaters include Z, Putney SwopeSeven Beauties, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Theaters such as the Roxie followed Rugoff’s business style, and probably wouldn’t exist without him. He loved movies, but he apparently didn’t love people. He treated his employees horribly, and yet many stayed with him well up until he suddenly fired them. He was a horrible father and husband.

Director Ira Deutchman made a thorough but conventional documentary, with no single narrator and many people talking about the subject. If you love independent movies, you should see this. I give Searching for Mr. Rugoff an A-.

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