ITHACA, N.Y. — Two independent theaters in Ithaca will screen the film adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984” in April. Cinemapolis and Cornell Cinema will be two of nearly 90 theaters across the country to screen the film as a way to create conversation by looking at Orwell’s dystopian portrait of government.
The executive director of Cinemapolis, Brett Bossard, said featuring “1984” is timely since there have been hints of suppression of free speech and free press over the past eight weeks and before that. The book and its film adaptation highlight the need to be critical consumers of media, Bossard said.
Media literacy was key in the film and is key in the world we live in today, Bossard said.
“With words like ‘fake news’ being used on both sides of political spectrum, being a critical consumer of all media has always been important,” Bossard said.
Interest in “1984” has noticeably increased lately. It is currently the No. 1 best seller in political fiction on Amazon. A spokesman for Signet Classics, which currently publishes “1984”, was quoted in an NPR article in January, saying sales of the book have increased almost 10,000 percent since Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Bossard said the idea to screen “1984” in independent theaters across the country was the brainchild of Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the CinemaArts Centre on Long Island, and Adam Birnbaum, of The Avon in Stamford, Connecticut. Bossard said he and many of the theaters on the list screening “1984” have worked with Birnbaum before, who handles film programming.
In a statement from theaters taking part in the screening, they quote the first line of Orwell’s novel, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” The statement says less than one month after Donald Trump was elected president, theater owners believe the clock is already striking thirteen.
“Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier. The endeavor encourages theaters to take a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as ‘alternative facts.’ By doing what they do best – showing a movie – the goal is that cinemas can initiate a much-needed community conversation at a time when the existence of facts, and basic human rights are under attack. Through nationwide participation and strength in numbers, these screenings are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society,” the statement said.
The date of the screening, April 4, is significant because it’s the day “1984” protagonist Winston Smith began rebelling against the oppressive government by keeping a forbidden diary.
Screening “1984” now is also a timely way to memorialize John Hurt, who starred as Winston Smith and died last month.
To go along with the film screening, Bossard said he is organizing a discussion about being critical consumers of media with possible collaboration from Project Look Sharp, a media literacy initiative based out of Ithaca College.
Cinemapolis and Cornell Cinema are taking part along with 13 other theaters in New York.
The film will be screened at 7 p.m. April 4 at Cinemapolis. The film is not on Cornell Cinema’s calendar yet, but the theater is included in the theater list. A full list of participating theaters is here.