“Community, Cinema, & Popcorn: A Prescription for the Heart”

By Jacinta White

Ahh, February – the month of love, the color red, and national festivities. It’s the month we celebrate African-American history, Mardi Gras, and heart health. We’re into the new year enough to know if we’re going to keep our resolutions or forgive ourselves that we even made them. It’s the month where, here in Winston-Salem, we fear ice storms the most and put the clicker on our calendars for spring.

And February is the second month of a/perture cinema’s fiscal year – independent art house gone nonprofit. (You know the place: downtown on 4th Street, across from Camino.) February – when staff works behind the scenes to finalize the curation of many of the year’s forthcoming indie, foreign, and blockbuster films.

Whether it’s a classical or newly released film or a series such as Classics & Cult, Looking @ Art Cinema, or brand new Black Cinema – a/ journey, a/perture strives to educate and entertain through the art of film.

For Lawren Desai, a/perture’s founder and Executive Director, a/perture isn’t just a movie theater, it’s a space where people gather and share. It’s where ideas are hatched. It’s where creativity blooms. It’s a meeting space whether you’re in the theater, a/trium, or checking out an exhibition from a local artist in the gallery.

Still, a/perture is perhaps an unexpected place that fits into heart health.

“Where else do you have people, strangers, of all ages, nationalities, religions, beliefs, laughing or crying together, in the dark even, other than at the movies?” Lawren asks. “There’s something about this sense of community, the bonding, the discussions, that are held here at a/perture,” she continues.

a/perture is the only art house cinema in the area. There are other theaters and programs around film, but a/perture is unique in that it’s a one-stop house.

When you walk through the doors of this intimate theater, there’s an aesthetic that helps people feel at home. Though a/perture hasn’t collected its own scientific data on the health benefits of cinema, there are studies that speak to the effects cinema has on one’s well-being. In a recent study, “Cinema is Good for You,” C Noah Uhrig argues:

…the visual stimulation associated with viewing films has therapeutic effects and the collective experience of emotions derived from viewing films in the cinema provide a controlled atmosphere in which to explore roles and social relations outside the ordinary realms of one’s existence. I have found that frequent cinema attendance is associated with lower odds of reporting problems with anxiety or depression and is often directly related to feelings of “happiness.”

It makes sense that when you’re doing something you enjoy and are with others who are enjoying it that there’s a sense of wholeness and wellbeing.

And what about popcorn? “Well, that’s healthy, too,” Lawren shares. “Popcorn delivers polyphenols – antioxidants linked to improving heart health. What’s more, popcorn is a whole grain, and people who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t.”

When one thinks of doing what’s good for their heart, they may not think of cinema. But outings with your girlfriends to see a film at a/perture is certainly a part of wellness, connection, and filling the heart. Shaheen Syal, an a/perture a/v member shares, “When I need a break or to get away from real-life for a few hours, I find myself here. Whether it be a good laugh or a good cry, for me, an evening at a/perture – with a bag of popcorn, a glass of wine, and my girlfriends – is soothing to the soul.”

a/perture cinema is a prescription well worth trying.


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