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Film students occupy the Zvezda cinema in Belgrade
26 November 2014
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A few days ago, a group of 200 young people occupied a cinema in Belgrade and started organizing free projections of Yugoslav and World classics and contemporary films.

Mostly film students from Belgrade, the group has entered the cinema Zvezda (Star), cleaned it up and brought their own equipment. The action operates on voluntary donations. They plan to stay as long as possible, keep organizing free screenings and discussions on the possibility of the existence of an independent space for film and other art forms.

"For too long we have watched the sale of cinemas, museums rotting, library decaying and how all this it is transformed into a commodity, a cultural property in private hands," said the group representatives. "In these ruins, we have opened a new cinema. We΄re too young to be nostalgic and too old to wait." they added.

The cinema Zvezda used to belong to the state-owned company Beograd Film, along with 13 other theaters. The company has been sold in 2007 to a London-based Serbian businessman for half of the estimated price. The contract required him to keep the original purpose of the spaces of all cinemas, which he didn΄t, ruining each cinema and then selling it to Croatian and Cyprian firms as business premises (cafes, sandwich shops). After being arrested and serving a 20 month sentence, he payed a 3.1 million fee (much less than his profits), but still remained the owner of the unsold cinema Zvezda, the only cinema in the center of Belgrade with surviving infrastructure.

Mina Djukic΄s film The Disobedient was the first film being screened, even before the official Serbian premiere of it at the 20th edition of Auteur Film Festival, taking place right now in Belgrade. "Looking for space and context for the premiere of the film, this seemed ideal. The point of the projection is a higher goal, the liberation of cinemas," said Djukic among others. Director Goran Markovic attented the screening, commenting that "this action is very significant because it proves that young people do not reconcile with the desperate situation of Serbian culture, [...] this is an example for all the country". After stating that he came to support his former students, Markovic added: "The fact that someone unlocks the door, is perhaps the beginning of what we might call the taking of things into our own hands, the hands of young people living here". 

A similar incident took place last year in Istanbul, where campaigners staged protests at plans to demolish the Emrek theatre -a historic venue, dating back to the early Atatürk days- to make way for a shopping and entertainment complex.

Before the screening, actress Ana Markovic read the manifesto titled "We are here and our cinema is too" in a packed theater, saying that they do not want to live in a Belgrade, where culture has become a luxury. "We call for courage and nobility ... All those who do not want to live in a Belgrade without a city cinema hall, in which museums are sealed, those who do not want to watch the decayed libraries and how the cultural production has been reduced to banality and occasional incidents. The fact that culture is dying, does not mean that it should be allowed to die" reads the manifesto. 

Serbian actors and directors were present in support of the students, who are determined to keep the occupation going: "We are obliged to react and take back what has been stolen".

  The Disobedient
  Goran Markovic
  Mina Djukic
  Ana Markovic
  "Out with the old and in with the new" by Tara Karajica
  Occupy the Movie Theater Movement Clip
  Occupy the Movie Theater Movement on Twitter
  Occupy the Movie Theater Movement on Facebook
  altcine Explore movies by Country People To read
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