Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Can't Stop the Serenity

This Saturday afternoon, the Toronto Underground Cinema is proud to be hosting an extremely fun charity event that manages to get bigger every year. Can't Stop the Serenity commences at 12:30pm Saturday, June 18th and is a fundraiser for Equality Now, an organization designed to protect the human rights of women around the world, and involves a screening of the cult Joss Whedon film Serenity, a spin off of the equally cult and unjustly cancelled television series Firefly. The event is organized by the Toronto Browncoats, named after the nickname for freedom fighters in the Firefly universe. They are a group of fans looking not only to spread the gospel of one of their favourite shows, but to raise money for worthwhile social rights issues.

The Toronto Underground Cinema recently spoke with event organizer and chairwoman Melanie Fischer about her love for the crew of the Serenity and what kind of fun to expect this weekend.

Toronto Underground Cinema: Could you give us a brief overview of what the Browncoats do and how they came about?

Melanie Fischer: The Browncoats themselves are basically fans of Firefly and Serenity and there's a local group in Toronto that has been getting together roughly once a month for several years. We have little shindigs and get-togethers. Then a group in the States decided to hold a screening of Serenity a year after its release on Joss Whedon's birthday, which was June 25th. All the proceeds go to Equality Now, which is one of Joss' charities of choice, which promotes equality for women around the world.

We have participated in this yearly event for six years now as part of the global effort called Can't Stop the Serenity, which has more that 50 cities around the world participating. It's all volunteer based. Some people have been on the committee for all six years to organize the event, some have been off and on. Either way it really is a year long event for us where some of us do promotion or organizing and trying to get donations. It starts right from where the last screening took place to get ready for next year.

In the end, it culminates in a day long event where you get to see the movie on the big screen in a theatre filled with fellow fans. There is also a live cash auction where we have all sorts of unique, one of a kind, homemade items from local craftspeople that you can't get anywhere else. We also have merchandise for sale, T-shirts and things like that which you can't get anywhere else. All the proceeds from those sales also go to Equality Now. Over the last five years, I think we have raised about $27,000 and this year we are hoping to cross the $30,000 mark. Worldwide the Browncoats have raised over $550,000. It's pretty significant.

TUC: Do you remember how you personally came to be such a huge fan of both Firefly and Serenity?

MF: I actually came late to the fandom. I hadn't seen the series when it aired on television and then I was at an event with friends when Serenity was released in theatres in September and everyone was talking about it nonstop. I thought this sounded incredible. I had to see what it was all about. But I had heard some rumours about some character deaths in the movie so I wanted to see the series first. I wanted to be invested in the characters so it would have the proper impact when I saw the movie. So we borrowed the DVDs from some friends, my husband and I, and we watched them in about three days and we were literally hooked from the first episode. Then we went and saw the movie and then I had to look online and find anything and everything I could read about Firefly and I found the Canadian Browncoats and the local chapter here in Toronto and the rest is history!

TUC: What do you think it is about Firefly that resonates with so many people?

MF: I think there are elements that everyone can identify with somewhat. You have this ensemble cast and they all embody different things. Somewhere in there is something that people can see that will identify with them. People seem to be really drawn to that classic and eternal underdog story. We're all trying to get ahead and deal with life's tribulations, and here's a group of people trying to do the same thing. We're all in this together and sometimes it's a struggle to get along, so it kind of touches a note.

Doors open at 12:30pm. The film starts at 1:15pm. Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Advance tickets and more information can be found at

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