On June 3, the 10th International Architecture Festival CANactions hosted a screening of the film Audience Emancipated: The Struggle for the Emek Movie Theater and a discussion with experts. This year, the film was screened at Docudays UA as a part of the urbanist film section The City Image. The discussion participants share their impressions after the event.
“The film Audience Emancipated is a story of Istanbul activists’ struggle for their right to free space in the city, particularly their right to a film theater; even if the theater is small and old, the point is that you can enter it straight from the street, without wandering along the stores of an enormous shopping mall,” says Darya Bassel, the program coordinator of Docudays UA. “The film does not have a single author, because it was put together from the many materials filmed by the activists. They reveal a long history of the movement which started with the desire to protect the small movie theater, but later evolved into a movement for the free city in general. It turned out that architecture, cinema and freedom are closely linked.
“The discussion with Zhenya Molyar (see the photo) and the members of the DE NE DE art initiative, whose purpose is to research the issues of representation of history in the public space, was very interesting. For me personally, it was very interesting to learn that, for example, in Lysychansk, people have restored a film theater and are even building a skating park next to it. It is important to know that if a community cares about something, it will overcome even economic hardships and the sluggish and corrupt state system. Many people had left right after the screening and did not stay for the discussion, so one of the discussion participants said, ‘Look how few we are.’ But I think that there were enough of us. Enough to move the process forward, to create change — slow change, but change nevertheless.”
“Ukraine still has a dense and widely spread network of film theaters created in the Soviet times. It is a colossal infrastructural heritage which we don’t appreciate for a number of reasons,” suggests Yevheniya Molyar, an art critic and a member of the DE NE DE initiative. “First of all, because everything Soviet is being successfully stigmatized by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory. Ukrainian cinemas are rapidly destroyed or turned into supermarkets. Many of them simply fell into disuse, because regional officials think that people are not interested in going to movies and that a movie theater cannot be profitable. For this reason, the film theaters simply stand there and slowly crumble. The Istanbul people’s passionate struggle for their film theater and particularly for having access to it from the street allows us to also realize the value of such venues. In the first part of the film, the protest participants share their sentimental memories about this film theater. Similarly, during the discussion after the screening, one member of the audience recalled her first date in a Ukrainian rural film theater, which is now crumbling in disuse. The claim that people don’t go to movies is true only in places where people have no movie theaters to go to. And as long as the memories about such form of entertainment as going to movies are alive, we can still preserve and save these theaters.”
The screening was supported by the Swiss Cooperation Office.