Theatres to screen Orwell’s 1984 in anti-Trump protest

Nearly 200 cinemas will show the film version of the dystopian classic on Tuesday to encourage political conversation.

1984 Orwell
The film version of Geroge Orwell's 1984 will be screened in more than 190 threatres across the US, UK, Canada, Sweden and Croatia [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Toronto, Canada Nearly 200 theatres worldwide will simultaneously screen the film version of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, on Tuesday to protest against US President Donald Trump.

The idea, which is being called “National Screening Day”, is the brainchild of Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Cinema Arts Centre on Long Island, New York, and Adam Birnbaum, director of film programming at the Avon Theatre Film Centre in Connecticut.

The pair began talking after the US presidential election about organising a film event to express how they felt about the new administration.

Skolnick told Al Jazeera that he realised 1984 would be the perfect film to show given the current political climate in the US.

“In particular, this undermining of the concept of facts and the demonisation of foreign enemies” by the Trump administration “really resonate in 1984”, Skolnick said.

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1984 takes place in a world consumed by war and ubiquitous government surveillance.

The state is under the control of “The Party”, which outlaws independent thought and individualism, and the “Thought Police”, which monitors the residents. “Big Brother” is the supposed leader of this totalitarian state.

“There’s a central line from the book about the freedom to say that two plus two equals four, even when the government is telling you that two plus two equals five,” Skolnick said.

“It’s a great book and it connects with a lot of things that are happening right now,” he added. 

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Since taking office, Trump has vilified and vowed to deport undocumented immigrants, and signed an executive order that bans foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

The president and his staff have repeatedly used the term “fake news” as a smear against journalists and news organisations, and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway also used the phrase “alternative facts” to defend statements made by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that were proven to be false.

Skolnick said April 4 was chosen as the screening date because it coincides with the day the story’s protagonist, Winston Smith, begins keeping a secret diary – his first act of rebellion against the state. 

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After going public with the idea, Skolnick said theatres across the US jumped on board.

More than 190 theatres, primarily in the US, but also in Canada, the UK, Sweden and Croatia will participate.

Most of the theatres will donate part of the ticket sales to organisations working on civil rights or other issues that matter in their communities.

In Toronto, the Royal Cinema will donate a portion of the profits to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, an organisation that works to defend human rights and liberties across Canada.

Skolnick said the event is also particularly timely given the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts to arts and humanities organisations and public broadcasting.

But it has also resonated outside the US where the issue of political engagement is gaining attention.

“No one is suggesting that we’re living in Orwell’s world. But the road to that world is people just becoming disengaged and allowing their government to do whatever it wants,” Skolnick said.

“This is really designed to get people to be talking and discussing and active in the political conversation that is happening in America right now – and throughout the world, it turns out.”

Source: Al Jazeera