Brattle Theater hosts 25th edition of ‘Bugs Bunny Film Festival’


Luiza Loyo

The Brattle Theater hosted the annual Bugs Bunny Film Festival.

Luiza Loyo, news correspondent

Amid posters of Alfred Hitchcock and a Casablanca-themed mural, it is clear that the owners of the Brattle Theatre love film. Running from Feb. 15 to Feb. 23, the Brattle held its 25th annual “Bugs Bunny Film Festival.” Shown in uncut 35mm film, the festival featured shorts of the beloved character Bugs Bunny and, in a weekend matinee program, other Looney Tunes characters. 

“I think that Bugs Bunny is a universally appealing character,” said Ned Hinkle, the creative director of the theater. “I think people of all ages can enjoy him — it’s just a question of whether they feel like it’s fun to see something like this.” 

Casey Macphail, a member of the Brattle’s theater crew, was an eyewitness to Bugs Bunny’s wide-ranging audience.

 “We get a lot of kids with their families, but we also get a lot of older folks,” he said. “A lot of families but definitely a lot of adults as well.”

The festival’s inaugural year was 1996, a year before Hinkle began working for the Brattle. It strategically ran during the time Cambridge and Boston Public Schools had their vacation week. 

“They thought it was a good thing to do to bring in kids, and it was hugely successful. It’s been successful every year since,” Hinkle said. 

“A couple of times, since it’s a new generation they would say things like, ‘Do they have a license for that gun?’” she said, as they watched Elmer Fudd, a character who hunts Bugs Bunny.

In 2001, Hinkle started choosing the cartoons for the festival, and in the digital age of streaming, he highlighted the importance of the curation process. 

“I’ve seen what the Netflix and Amazon algorithms throw at me. You might like their suggestions, but it’s not an accurate system,” Hinkle said. “I think the curation is what brings people to the Brattle in general. It’s [the fact that] somebody, us, the people who work here, are choosing the films.”

At the Brattle, there is only one screen – a set-up that is different from other movie theaters, which usually have multiple screens to fill. Hinkle says going to the Brattle is a unique experience: “Here, we’re choosier.” 

Hinkle commented on the Brattle’s history, emphasizing its important role in the process of discovering films. 

“[The theater] would look internationally and try to find films that were playing in other countries that people hadn’t seen here,” Hinkle said. 

The Brattle’s first ever screening was the German film “Der Hauptmann von Köpenick” (The Captain from Köpenick) in 1953. Since then, the theater has been responsible for bringing many international filmmakers to the U.S. for the first time, Hinkle said. Bryant Haliday and Cyrus Harvey, founders of the Brattle, later created the distribution company Janus Films with the intent of spreading foreign films nationwide.

Aside from their places of origin, the movies themselves come from multiple genres, which diversifies Brattle’s showings.

“We often change our movies every day, so there’s a lot of variety to what we play. We play old films and new films, cult films, classic films, weird films and normal films … We play all different kinds of things,” Hinkle said. 

Emphasizing this diversity, the theater will host screenings of the Boston Underground Festival at the end of March and the Independent Film Festival in April. The focus of the theatre’s program this year is the genre of science fiction.