Like anyone who loved rock ’n’ roll in the 1980s, Andy Szava-Kovats made regular pilgrimages to the Rathskeller, better known as the Rat, to hear the bands that regularly filled the smoky cellar tavern in Kenmore Square. “The first band I saw was Willie Alexander’s. He played there many times,” says Szava-Kovats, who grew up in Chelmsford and lives in Lowell. “I saw the Cars before they even had a record deal. Jonathan Richman, Human Sexual Response — everyone played the Rat.”
Szava-Kovats has spent the past four years gathering interviews and archival footage for his documentary “Let’s Go to the Rat” (the original title, “Rat Tales,” had to be scrapped when he discovered that someone else used it for a film about actual rodents). Szava-Kovats’s company, True Age Media, has produced three other documentaries: “Grindstone Redux: the Story of the 1980s Underground Music Network”; “The Last Farm in Lowell”; and “The Last Pow-Wow Oak.” “Let’s Go to the Rat” is about half finished, he says. Interviews shot so far include Willie Alexander, Asa Brebner (of the Mezz and Robin Lane), Dave Minehan (of the Neighborhoods), Billy Connors (of Boize) and Carl Biancucci (of Classic Ruins). Szava-Kovats, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, says he hopes to have the film finished by the fall so he can meet 2014 film festival deadlines.
To that end, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for purchasing additional footage that people “are holding on to like it’s gold. I can kind of understand, but this isn’t a money venture for me. It’s a labor of love,” he says.
He’s not looking to make a historical record of the heyday of the rock/punk scene in Boston, however. “I saw a documentary about CBGB in New York and I thought, we need one about the Rat, which was our CBGB,” he says. “I want it to be personal: what it meant to people, whether you were in a band, or went to hear music, or for those who worked there. There’s been no replacement for that scene in Boston; There is no ‘Boston Music scene’ anymore.”
The appeal of the Rat was the cutting-edge bands it attracted along with its grungy atmosphere, Szava-Kovats says. “You could smell the sweat and practically touch the musicians. They’d hang out at the bar afterward. The place was like a cave but it also had a sense of security, like we were all in it together.”
To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, go to www.kickstarter.com/projects/131651987/rat-tales-documentary-about-the-rathskeller-club-b?ref=email. For more information on the project, go to www.trueagemedia.com.
One night only
There are five especially notable one-time screenings at various venues this week.
Filmmakers Libbie D. Cohn and J.P. Sniadecki will appear at the Harvard Film Archive on Sunday at 7 p.m. with their 2012 film “People’s Park,” which captures daily public life in Changdu, China, where hundreds flock to the park to exercise, stroll, eat, chat, sing, and dance. For more information, go to www.hcl.harvard.edu/hfa.
The Balagan series presents filmmaker Sami van Ingen, who will be in attendance at the Brattle Theatre on Monday at 7:30 p.m. for the screening of three short films from various points in his career. A 20-year veteran of moving images, van Ingen has produced many films, videos, and installations from his home base in Finland. www.balaganfilms.com.
“Koch” a lively portrait of former New York City mayor Ed Koch, who died in February, screens Thursday at 7 p.m. at West Newton Cinema. The Boston Jewish Film Festival, which had “Koch” on its program last year, is presenting this encore screening. www,bjff.org.
On Friday at 7 p.m at Boston University, Todd Solondz, director of memorable independent features such as “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and “Happiness,” will screen and discuss his black comedy “Dark Horse” (2012), about a 30ish guy who lives unhappily with his parents (Mia Farrow, Christopher Walken) and becomes engaged to a kooky woman (Selma Blair). Events are free to BU students, staff, and the general public. www.bu.edu/com/academics/film-tv/cinematheque.
Charles Laughton’s “The Night of the Hunter” — the only film that the great actor ever
directed — is one of the strangest and most chilling films of all time. The 1955 thriller starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish screens in 35mm on April 8 at 7 p.m. as part of the Big Screen Classics series at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. www.coolidge.org/programs/big-screen-classics.
Arlington’s Regent Theatre hosts the premiere of the documentary “Tattoo Nation,” which traces the origins of tattoo and its explosion into mainstream culture, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and Friday at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Billed as the first feature-length documentary about the revolutionary style of black and gray tattoo art, it features Travis Barker, Danny Trejo, Ed Hardy, Corey Miller, Mister Cartoon, and a soundtrack with hip-hop recording artist Sick Jacken and DJ Muggs.
For tickets, call 781-646-4849 or go to www.RegentTheatre.com.
Talk about justice
Suffolk University Law School hosts a free screening of the 2012 documentary “The Central Park Five” on April 10 at 4:30 p.m. The film, directed by Ken Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband, David McMahon, examines the infamous case of five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping and beating a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. A discussion with Sarah Burns, McMahon, and members of the Central Park Five will follow the screening at 120 Tremont St.
The 20th annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival, titled “Continuities,” continues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Hampshire College through April 25. On Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., filmmakers and UMass alumni Pamela Yates and Paco de Onis present and discuss their work in progress, “Disruption,” an exploration of feminism and human rights in Latin America. Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai’s “Numbered” (April 10, 7:30 p.m.) captures the testimonies of Holocaust survivors about the numbers tattooed on their bodies. It will screen with “Jerusalem E.R.” The following Wednesday (April 17, 7:30 p.m.), Artemis Joukowsky presents his new documentary feature, “Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War,” the story of his own grandparents who left Wellesley to help rescue WWII refugees. It screens at Hampshire College with “Yom Hashoah,” James Young’s observation of Holocaust Remembrance Day filmed on the streets of Jerusalem. All events are free and open to the public.
More information at www.umass.edu/film.Loren King can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.