Checking in on Film Is Truth
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Although Film Is Truth has changed addresses more often than I have over the course of the last two decades, it’s worth noting that the longtime video rental store put down roots in Bellingham the same year I did.
It was 1997, and renting or purchasing book-sized VHS tapes and inserting them into an equally bulky VCR was one of the only ways to watch a film from the comfort of your own home. The movie-loving masses hadn’t yet felt the pull of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, and there was still competition to be had in the lending business.
Early on, I learned that if I wanted to be entertained for a night or three, dropping by Film Is Truth (24 Times a Second) to pick up a bundle of flicks was a good way to do so. Sure, I could’ve chosen to stop at Blockbuster on a regular basis, but Film Is Truth typically had a much more interesting selection of rentals than the then-mighty chain store, and I preferred supporting a business that was locally owned and operated.
When they were located across the way from the recently shuttered Limelight Cinema—which was the headquarters for the Pickford Film Center before its big move to Bay Street—I’d often drop by Film Is Truth after a volunteer shift at the PFC. If I’d missed seeing the latest indie movie, documentary, foreign film or Oscar-winning feature when it played on the big screen, it could often be found on the shelves on the other side of Cornwall Avenue shortly thereafter.
In later years, after Film Is Truth had moved to swanky new digs on Holly Street and started renting out way more DVDs than VHS tapes, I’d still drop by at least once a week—either on my walk home after work, or following a gig at the nearby Upfront Theatre (RIP). I was often too amped up after a performance to go right to sleep, and I found popping in a late-night movie to be the perfect panacea—that is, if I wasn’t first spirited away by my fellow cast members for a post-show mound of cheesy fries and a stiff cocktail at the Horseshoe.
One of the many things I’ve always appreciated about visiting Film Is Truth is that I was never judged for my rental choices. Staff members have always been ready and willing to offer advice and recommendations, but if the latest Adam Sandler comedy was what I was after, they’d steer me in the right direction without smirking. Similarly, if I was in the mood for an obscure arthouse film from Germany, then that’s what I got. With a combined catalogue of more than 20,000 titles—which, yes, still includes a limited number of VHS tapes—there has always been something for everyone.
In recent years, I’ve been lax about checking in on my favorite video store. I’ve gotten lazy, and often pre-order movies and television series in bulk from the Bellingham Public Library to be consumed over weeks at a time. (I’ve also Redboxed on occasion, but we don’t need to talk about that.)
Although I still visited Film Is Truth once in a while after they’d moved from Holly Street to the Public Market and transitioned into a nonprofit, I hadn’t yet been to their latest locale in the former iDiOM Theater space behind the darkened Limelight Cinema—which is where my date I found them when we dropped by during last Saturday’s torrential rain and windstorm.
Entering the space messed with my memory. The shelving and layout of the current Film Is Truth setup was similar to what had come before it, but this was also the place I’d watched countless original theater productions. However, with pandemic protocols in place and a new paint job, it felt safe and somewhat familiar.
After perusing the selections at Bellingham’s last remaining video store—Trek Video closed in 2014, Blockbuster vacated in December 2017, and Crazy Mike’s said farewell in 2018—we were stoked to find that it was still the best place to get a cinematic fix.
I opted for two films from 2019—the critically acclaimed whodunnit Knives Out and the Oscar-winning film out of South Korea, Parasite, both of which I’d yet to see. My fella got a little more obscure, selecting the delightful documentary I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story and the harrowing 1950s-era French film The Wages of Fear.
At checkout, I wondered aloud if my membership had been erased since it had been so long between visits.
“We’re not the federal government,” the clerk cheekily replied, “we’ll never purge you from our records.”
To find out more about becoming a Film Is Truth member or to peruse their selection of DVDs, VHS tapes and Blu-ray videos, go to http://www.filmistruth.com
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