Laura Boyes, who programs films for the North Carolina Museum of Art, grew up in Cleveland, where she used to go with her parents to see films at the Cleveland Museum of Art. In college at the University of Cincinnati, she was head of the school’s film society and wrote movie reviews for the college paper and the local independent weekly.
After she moved with her husband to the Triangle in 1981, Boyes maintained her eclectic film-going habits, and in 1999, a friend suggested to George Holt, the director of film programming at the NCMA, that Boyes might be a great person to program films that could be shown in the museum’s theater.
She began with Hollywood classics and art house flicks, all shown in 35 mm prints – which are not easy to come by – then gradually began programming films that linked up with whatever exhibit was ongoing at the museum.
We talked to Boyes about her work at NCMA.
Q: Describe your series:
A: We program thematic series with classic Hollywood and international films, and overlooked new releases. We screen in a variety of formats, including 35 mm archival prints, and I think we’re the only venue in the area that can do that.
Q: What’s your audience?
A: A combination of museum of art members, film lovers of all kinds, some of whom are weekly attendees, and some who attend occasionally. The demographic is generally over 40, evenly split between men and women. I encourage younger people to come. In my experience, most younger people are only aware of the films made in their lifetime.
Q: What are some of the favorite films you’ve programmed?
A: “Sunset Boulevard,” because I love the look of it, the performances, Billy Wilder’s writing and direction, and it plays beautifully in front of an audience. And when it plays on the big screen, it’s a film about the big screen, so it’s got that meta thing going for it. And “Peyton Place,” with Lana Turner, a big soap opera.
Q: What are the ones you wish you hadn’t?
A: There are none I wish I hadn’t, but when I showed “Last Year at Marienbad,” (1962, Italian, very existential) people came up to me afterwards, and ragged on me. “This film is so terrible, I wish I had those two hours back.” I just feel this is part of your cultural education, and I don’t mind the criticism. You’re allowed to hate things. I don’t program that many films, and the ones I program, I program films for a reason. You’re stuck with my taste; there’s no committee involved with the programming, and if you don’t like my taste, you can go to one of the other wonderful series in this area. There’s room for everybody.
Q: What are your three desert island films?
A: “Sunset Boulevard.” “The General,” (1927) because I just love Buster Keaton’s visual sense. “The Thief of Baghdad” (1924) with Douglas Fairbanks, because it’s so visually rich and rewarding.
N.C. Museum of Art
The NCMA’s current Winter Films series, concentrating on dance films, runs through April 1.
Beginning April 15, the museum’s Spring Films series will focus on two directors: India’s Satyajit Ray, and Sidney Lumet.
For more information, go to ncartmuseum.org.