A still from “Son of a White Mare,” one of the films showing as part of the Animated Oddities series. Courtesy of Arbelos Films

“I saw this movie and wanted to build something around it.”— Greg Jamie, The Apohadion Theater

If that’s not the motto of every independent movie screening venue, it definitely should be. And it’s how Apohadion partner and programmer Jamie explains the thinking behind the Bayside music and movie hot spot’s newest film series, Animated Oddities, which kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 26, with an 8:30 p.m. showing of “Consuming Spirits.” The 2012 feature from writer-director Chris Sullivan is a hauntingly strange animated tale of three lonely people who work in the lone newspaper of a fictional town, and how their lives unexpectedly intersect. The semi-autobiographical film plays out in several hand-made animation styles, all meticulously crafted by Sullivan himself over a 15-year period. It’s challenging, beautiful, grotesque and, as the series’ title makes clear, very odd. 

Early Gray, a character in “Consuming Spirits,” the first film showing as part of the Animated Oddities series at The Apohadion. Still courtesy of Chris Sullivan

That’s just the way The Apohadion likes it. While the venerable Portland establishment has long been a destination for Mainers looking for the best in live music, adult refreshments and the occasional queer dance party (Proto Plasma, happening Friday) or burlesque show (Screw Loose & Fancy Free on Saturday), the theater has upped its movie game of late. Under Jamie’s guidance, the Apohadion is seeking to fill in those gaps still left by the long-ago loss of The Movies on Exchange St., whose closing left Maine’s coolest city (sorry, Bangor) without a single single-screen art theater to its name. For Jamie, The Apohadion’s cinematic side-hustle is still something of a hard sell for crowds used to heading to the hip Hanover Street club for local rock greatness. 

“It’s tough,” Jamie said of programming The Apohadion’s new movie offerings. “I don’t really know what I’m doing.” Well, could’ve fooled me, as Jamie’s choice of the three films for the Wednesday Animated Oddities screenings exhibit the sort of restless, what-the-hell curiosity and ambition all really good indie venues need. Jamie explains that it was his chance viewing of the series’ second film, Cristobal Leon and Joaquin Cocina’s unsettlingly striking live-action animated “La Casa Lobo/The Wolf House,” that initially sparked his plans. “That’s what instigated it,” said Jamie, himself a local musician and boundary-pushing artist. “It made me think about what other movies are being made around the world – handcrafted, weird movies unlike anything else.” 

“La Casa Lobo” (screening on March 25) is indeed that, a fairy tale about a young woman fleeing fanatical religious types who finds herself taken in by a pair of sympathetic pigs in a house that seems to swell and shape itself to her unraveling emotional state. Made from life-size, paper mache figures, the film was assembled over several years, its rough, fantastical creepiness making Jamie think The Apohadion was just the right home for it. “It’s so visually unexpected that I could just picture it at The Apohadion,” he said. “I just felt it would look really cool in the room.” Continuing to brainstorm, Jamie says the movie “summed up a lot of the type of thing I’d like to see more of in town.”

Again, that’s the true beauty of a truly independent movie venue. Programmers curating a slate of offerings (like the third Animated Oddity, 1981’s Hungarian psychedelic cult cartoon “Son of the White Mare” on April 29) attuned both to their own ever-vibrating indie film antennae, and the vibe of a city like Portland where the arts are always pushing out in search of the new and the unique. In addition to the monthly Animated Oddities series, look for The Apohadion to bring us such essential and overlooked films as “Vitalina Varela,” the new film from Portuguese master director Pedro Costa on March 18, and, on April 23, the essential-for-music-fans documentary “The Unicorn,” about legendary outsider country musician Peter Grudzian and his 1974 “first gay country album.”

Portland’s a fine place for film fans. The Nickelodeon’s always slipping interesting local, foreign and event films into its chain-friendly schedule. PMA Films at the Portland Museum of Art carries on The Movies’ spirit under the guidance of Portland film maven Jon Courtney. And Space is another mixed-use venue like The Apohadion that peppers its eclectic lineup with movies we’re not going to get to see on a big screen anywhere else. But such venues need to be nurtured, to be supported. So head out to see “Consuming Spirits” on Wednesday, and the rest of the Apohadion’s Animated Oddities all spring. It’s the least we film folk can do. 

“Consuming Spirits” screens as part of The Apohadion Theater’s Animated Oddities Film Series on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Doors open at 8 p.m., movie’s at 8:30. As ever, The Apohadion has a working bar for the over-21 crowd, and while it doesn’t serve food, Jamie says that sneaking in popcorn is encouraged. 

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his wife and cat.

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