The world has been gripped recently by the goings on in Rome, as the College of Cardinals elected the new Pope.
I don't know what you make of the whole process, but I confess I found it all slightly bonkers.
I mean, I can appreciate the significance of the event, especially for Catholics, but the sight of 115 elderly celibate men in fancy dress – none of whom has ever had to deal with what really troubles people in their daily lives – solemnly parading into the Sistine Chapel to pick one of them to advise the rest of the world on how to live in the modern age could have come straight out of Monty Python.
I remember watching an Italian film about a year ago called We Have a Pope.
It was directed by Nanni Moretti, well known in Italy as a maker of films that mock the odder aspects of life. The main point of the story is that when the Pope is finally elected, he realises the enormity of the task in front of him, and goes on the run for 48 hours. The Vatican then has to pretend that he is busy with matters of state while a frantic search takes place to track him down.
It's an amusing film but its best moment comes after the cardinals are locked in the Chapel to begin the ballot process.
Moretti imagines it as a group of children taking a test at school. We see the cardinals doing just what kids do – chewing their pencils, dropping them on the floor, writing something down and then crossing it out, or peering over the shoulder of their neighbour to see what he had written.
I recalled this as I watched the news footage from Rome. We at the Society are about to embark on the selection of our programme for next season – and, in many ways, it's just as complicated as picking the Pope.
We begin the process by drawing up a long list. There are rules attached to this: each film has to have been seen by at least one member of the committee and none of them will have appeared in Lincoln before (or, if they have, for no more than a week.) Nominations come not just from the committee but also from the membership.
This part can be tricky, because, if we weren't careful, we can end up with lots of nominations for French provincial comedies starring Gérard Depardieu, because that sort of film appeals to members probably more than any other, so the need to strike a balance in the programme is vital.
That's not as simple as it sounds. As I pointed out last week, we can only choose from the films that are being made and getting released; but, because we want to fit more newly released films into the programme (without having to wait for many months as we currently do) we've also got to take a chance by leaving gaps for films which won't be out until the autumn.
In the past we used to put together a long list of 50 or so possibles and the committee would then vote on those we thought audiences would like to see. However, as the programme has grown in size, this has taken us longer to accomplish.
This year we're doing it differently. We've whittled the long list we've been compiling down to a more manageable size, dropping films of the same type for example, if we have too many of them.
We try and reflect current trends. Documentary films are very strong at the moment, like Chasing Ice, a visually stunning film about the melting of the ice caps and glaciers across the world. The Spirit of '45 (Ken Loach's latest which I talked about a couple of weeks back), The Imposter and West of Memphis (about a miscarriage of justice in the USA) are all contenders for inclusion too.
The list will also reflect the excellence of cinema from around the world.
France will be well represented for sure, but there are films from Japan (I Wish), Italy (Reality, Caesar Must Die), Iran (This is Not a Film) and Romania (Beyond the Hills) under consideration. I've seen really good indie films from the USA (for example Compliance) which stand a good chance of being included. We'll try to make sure British cinema is featured.
And then – and this is the different bit – instead of voting for the films we want to keep, we're going to choose the films we won't show.
Who knows how long this will take. I can imagine there will be plenty of argument before we reach agreement; but unlike choosing a Pope, we won't be wearing fancy dress, we won't be locking ourselves away, we won't be having several rounds of voting – and we won't be letting the world know that the programme is decided by smoke signal.
At The Venue this week:
March 22 – Gangster Squad (15) 7.30pm
March 23 – Family Film Club: Monsters Inc (U) 2.30pm
March 23 – Hyde Park on Hudson (12a) 7.30pm
March 24 – In Love With Alma Cogan (12a) 3pm (Lincoln Film Society – open to the public)
March 25 – Lincoln (12a) 7.30pm
March 26 – The Rochdale Pioneers (special screening by the Co-op) 7pm
March 27 – Lincoln (12a) 2.30pm and 7.30pm