The closure of public places during the corona crisis has made it clear that the collective experience of watching films in the cinema cannot simply be relocated into the privacy of one's own four walls. The public sphere needs a cinema where films can be watched together so that this experience can be collectively shared and, above all, discussed with other people. Because cinema is more than just films. Cinema is a space for social discourse, a place for exchange and solidarity. Beyond the commercialism and rigidity of our societal structures, cinema can be a place where people can come together for their love of films, a transtopian space that opens doors, stimulates discussion, educates, moves, provokes and inspires. Cinemas are part of the public urban architecture, while at the same time being self-contained places of longing with an utopian character. On the big screen, a variety of worlds can open up before our very eyes, allowing us to dive into and immerse ourselves into other perspectives. Cinema can therefore create new kinds of connections that extend from the cinematic world into the urban and vica versa. With these thoughts in mind, we will open our cinema experiment SİNEMA TRANSTOPIA in the Haus der Statistik on 3 September 2020 with the series RESTART: SİNEMA. For the opening programme, we have joined forces with various curators to create a series of films that examines cinema as a unique social and aesthetic space.
For over five years, bi’bak has been organising the film programme bi'bakino, which creates a space for transnational, post-colonial and (post)-migrational perspectives and therefore serves to place local events in the context of global developments. bi’bak’s praxis has shown that cinema has not lost its importance as a social meeting place, as a space that brings together different communities and aesthetic approaches. In a similar vein, so too is the Initiative Haus der Statistik transforming the former GDR administration building into a communal space that combines culture, social issues, education and integrated living. As a result, our cinema, which is committed to exchange and participation, has found an ideal location in the pioneering use of the Haus der Statistik.
Funded by Hauptstadtkulturfonds
Curated by Popo Fan, Tobias Hering, Malve Lippmann, Branka Pavlović, Can Sungu, Sarnt Utamachote and Florian Wüst
Branka Pavlovic studied film and TV in Belgrade and continued her academic career with a master’s degree in Art in Context at the University of Arts Berlin. Since 2009, she has worked for the Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade as its leading program director. She developed the art education program of nGBK Berlin and teaches as a freelance art instructor at the Freie University Berlin, leading numerous seminars and workshops.
Florian Wüst is an independent film curator, artist, and publisher based in Berlin. He co-founded the Berlin Journals—On the History and Present State of the City. From 2016-2020 he worked as a film and video curator of transmediale.
Malve Lippmann studied at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart and at the Institute for Art in Context at the Berlin University of the Arts (MA). She worked internationally as a freelance stagedesigner and artist. Since 2010 she has also been active as a cultural manager in various cultural and community projects. She is co-founder and artistic director of bi'bak and Sinema Transtopia.
Popo Fan, born 1985, is a Berlin-based Chinese diaspora filmmaker, curator and writer. His films include queer activism documentaries and scripted, sex-positive shorts. For more than a decade, he has organized the Beijing Queer Film Festival and founded the Queer University Video Training Camp in China. In 2019 he curated film series “More Than A Midnight Rainbow” about Chinese-made and Chinese-speaking queer films at bi’bak.
Sarnt Utamachote (ษาณฑ์ อุตมโชติ) is a nonbinary filmmaker and curator. They are a co-founder of un.thai.tled, an artist collective from the German-Thai diaspora, with whom they curated the un.thai.tled Film Festival Berlin and Beyond the kitchen: Stories from the Thai Park. Their video installation I Am Not Your Mother (2020) was exhibited at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and their short film Soy Sauce (2020) was screened at OutFest Fusion LA, Xposed Berlin, and Queer East London 2021, among others.
Tobias Hering is a freelance film curator and journalist, who recently presented at bi'bak the programme Freundschaft auf Zeit (2019) on contract work and internationalism in the GDR. He is currently responsible for the archive project re-selected at the Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen. In this context he is researching Amos Vogel's work as the Short Film Festival's US correspondent in the 1960s.
When Umar al-Bashir and his Islamist “Revolutionary Command Council for National Salvation” (RCC) seized power in 1989, all cinemas in Sudan had to close. He reigned as an authoritarian president for 30 years until he was overthrown in April 2019 following protests. Talking about Trees premiered just two months earlier. The film shows four older men, veterans of Sudanese cinema and members of the Sudanese Film Club (founded in 1989), in their tireless attempt to build an open-air cinema. With a great deal of wit and laconic humour, they restore films and renovate walls, sit together and fight against the reluctant administration.
The planned demolition of the Emek cinema in Istanbul led to years of protests. This protest movement, which was documented by the activists through phone recordings, was one of the first triggers of the Gezi protests. These protests eventually gave rise to a new public consciousness, which organized itself on the streets and via the Internet, documented the events with live videos and tweets, and enabled independent reporting. Audience Emancipated takes into account the constant process of this "reporting from below". Standing in the film’s credits, next to the collective’s email address, is: "this film is an ongoing project by Emek Bizim İstanbul Bizim. As long as the struggle continues, the film's editing will continue". Film footage of the protesters, TV coverage and film clips commenting on the events are contrasted again and again throughout the film. The juxtaposition of two images evokes a third, fourth or fifth idea and a multitude of poignant political arguments. Seldom has activist filmmaking used cinematic means so cleverly, while also keeping the pulse on the times.
Zeyno Pekünlü is an artist based in Istanbul and currently running the Production and Research Program of the Istanbul Biennial (ÇAP) for young artists and researchers. She is part of the editorial board of Red Thread and member of Institute of Radical Imagination. She is also involved in the Emek Bizim İstanbul Bizim initiative.
Fırat Yücel is a film critic and filmmaker. Up until 2019, he was co-founder and editor-in-chief of the independent cinema magazine Altyazı. He is currently editing Altyazı Fasikül: Free Cinema, Altyazı's supplement focusing on the freedom of artistic expression. His filmic works include Only Blockbusters Left Alive (2016), Welcome Lenin (2016), Audience Emancipated (2016), and CemileSezgin (2020). He is part of the Emek Bizim İstanbul Bizim initiative.
“There are ghosts in this theater! There are ghosts!” Chen Chao-jung says this to the Japanese tourist Kiyonobu Mitamura, who doesn’t seem to understand a word. Amidst flowing water, empty space and lonely souls, Tsai Ming-Liang’s 2003 feature Goodbye Dragon Inn shows an old cinema’s last night in Taipei, screening the wuxia classic Dragon Inn (1967). Goodbye Dragon Inn is a film about memory and time, seeking utopia and hope for the future in cinema’s past. In 2020, the pandemic has hit the film industry badly and cinemas were forced to close for almost half a year. Coincidentally during the release of this film in 2003, the world was suffering from SARS, an earlier strain of the coronavirus. Apparently the ghosts are haunting the theater to this day.
Yun-hua Chen is a film scholar, critic, and curator with a PhD in Film Studies. Her monograph Mosaic Space and Mosaic Auteurs has been published by Neofelis Verlag in Berlin. She worked as the festival director of the 26th dokumentART film festival in Neubrandenburg, as well as a jury member of Fipresci and the Critics’ Award for Arab Films.
Por Primera Vez
For the First Time
Octavio Cortázar, Cuba 1967, 10 min.
Islands of Forgotten Cinemas
Ivan Ramljak, Croatia 2016, 35 min.
Following the screening an online discussion with Ivan Ramljak and Branka Pavlović
Darezhan Omirbayev, USSR 1988, 25 min.
Love in Cinema
Swan Yaung Ni, Myanmar 2016, 18 min.
Following the screening an online discussion with Thaiddhi and Sarnt Utamachote
The short film programme spans an arc from today to the 1960s and shows the global and historical diversity of cinema culture. Por Primera Vez shows a mobile cinema in Cuba bringing Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) to rural areas. The locals, many of whom have never seen a film before, talk about their expectations: “I imagine it to be like a party. A dance or something like that. I've never seen one, I can't tell you what it is.” Шильде (July) also takes us to a remote cinema in the countryside: in quiet shots which explore the vastness of the Kazakh steppe, two boys try to raise money for a cinema visit. Love in Cinema follows an old man to the cinema where his late wife worked. As the film progresses, the memories of his wife and the cinema become entangled with the history of Myanmar. Kino Otok tells the story of a loss, too. Poetic images show the architectural structures of former island cinemas in Croatia, which are now used as a shooting range or for yoga courses. On the soundtrack you can hear how the residents of the islands remember their film experiences.
Thaiddhi is a freelance filmmaker, producer and cinematographer. His first short film Awake (2009) won Best Short Film at FAMU Fest 2009. His first feature film as a cinematographer is Night (2017), directed by Htoo Paing Zaw Oo. He also served as Jury in 2018 and a selection committee member in 2019 for SeaShorts Film Festival, Malaysia.
Jefferson Circus Songs
Suzan Pitt, USA 1976, 16 min., 16mm
Suzan Pitt, USA 1979, 19 min.
Amos Vogel was a pioneer of the independent New York film and cinema scene. Even today, his main work Film as Subversive Art (1974) offers a cross-reading of film history as a story of continued rebellion that is well worth reading. In German, the book was published under the somewhat lurid title Kino wider die Tabus (Cinema against Taboos), which, however, touched on one of Vogel's central concerns: taboos, censorship and bigotry are unworthy of a free society, and the cinema must be valued and protected as a place of individual and social emancipation. Two films by the animation artist Suzan Pitt, Jefferson Circus Songs and Asparagus, provide the framework for a conversation with Stefanie Schulte Strathaus about Vogel's cinema vision, whose own work at Kino Arsenal was strongly influenced by her friendship with Vogel.
Screened as part of re-selected, a project by Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen in cooperation with the Arsenal - Institut für Film und Videokunst in the context of “Archive außer sich”.
Stefanie Schulte Strathaus is film curator and co-director of the Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art as well as director of the Berlinale Forum Expanded. From 2001-2019 she was a member of the selection committee of the Berlinale Forum. From 2010-2013 she conceived and directed the project "Living Archive - Archive Work as Contemporary Art and Curatorial Practice". Schulte Strathaus is co-initiator of the silent green project "Film Field Research" and member of the board of Harun Farocki Institute, Master Program Film Culture at the University in Jos/Nigeria and NAAS | Network of Arab Alternative Screens.
The cinema Alfred Talkies is located in the middle of Mumbai in an old colonial style house. Large-format painted posters and an expansive auditorium with countless ceiling fans lure the audience inside, past the uniformed security guard, where they find distraction from everyday life with action movies. Original Copy shows the cinema and its staff as a family-like ensemble with a strict division of labour. The film focuses mostly on the chain-smoking poster painter Sheikh Rahman: as a mixture of trickster and old master, he commands his assistants, gives life tips and tells jokes, while a painting slowly emerges before our eyes and the Bollywood soundtracks thunder in the background.
Florian Heinzen-Ziob made his first feature-length documentary with Original Copy, which celebrated its world premiere at the Hot Docs Film Festival in 2015 and was shown at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. His short film For Your Own Safety celebrated its world premiere in 2016 at the Tribeca Film Festival and his second full-length documentary film German Class in 2018 at the Sheffield Docs Film Festival. He is co-owner of the independent production company Polyphem.
Georg Heinzen studied German studies and History at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf and Film Dramaturgy at the HFF in Munich. As a freelance author, he writes screenplays for cinema and television, novels and plays. In 2011 he lived in Mumbai as Artist in Residence of the Kunststiftung NRW. There he took on teaching assignments for the Whistling Woods Filmschool Mumbai and the Film and Television Institute of India in Puna. He is co-owner of the independent production company Polyphem.
Occupied Cinema is an observational documentary that chronicles the activists’ occupation of the cinema Zvezda in Belgrade, one of the 14 cinemas that had once belonged to the Yugoslavian state and was then sold to a private investor. Senka Domanović is the witness of this rare gathering of artists, activists and the cinema’s former workers who came together through a shared dream. But collective activism has its irks and quirks In the director's own words: “The occupation of the cinema was an opportunity for people to come together, to self-organize and manage a contained micro-economy, to essentially bypass the market logic and break away from the ideological apparatus of the state. A moment later, everything collapsed.”
Senka Domanović is a filmmaker and political activist. She studied Journalism at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade at the same time as completing film school. In 2007, she released her first short film Arizona. From 2014 to 2015, she worked as the programme director of the Belgrade Documentary and Short Film Festival. Occupied Cinema (2018) is her first feature film.
For more than 20 weeks, Alicia Vega has been travelling every Saturday to one of Santiago's slums, Lo Hermida, to conduct a film workshop for children. Many of the children have never been to a cinema. They learn the techniques that preceded the invention of cinema, watch films by the Lumière brothers and Charlie Chaplin, and make their own films. Ignacio Agüero not only documents Vega's impressive work, but poetically illustrates the power of cinema, which oscillates between fantasy and reality, against the background of the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
Dominga Sotomayor (*1985, Santiago de Chile) is a director, writer, and producer, co-founder of CINESTACIóN and artistic director at CCC Centro de Cine y Creación. Her first feature film Thursday till Sunday (2012) won the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam Film Festival. In 2015, she premiered Mar (2014) at the Berlinale Forum. For Too Late To Die Young (2018) she became the first woman to receive the Leopard for Best Direction at Locarno Film Festival. Currently, she is a Visitor Professor at Harvard Art, Film and Visual Studies Department.
“The film stopped and someone said the cinema was on fire.” In 1979, Islamists set fire to the cinema Rex in Abadan, heralding it as a turning point in the Islamic revolution and the end of Iranian post-war cinema. 422 people died. “Filmfarsi” is a term for the popular Iranian low-budget films, which came to an end with this event. They are hybrids of recycled and re-coded genre cinema, neither fully film, nor fully farsi. In his archaeology of VHS bootlegs, Eshan Khoshbakht embarks on a search for the collective subconscious of a “nation with a split personality” and digs up sediments of machismo and homoeroticism, “madonnas” and “whores”, class conflicts, love, sex and violence.
Ehsan Khoshbakht is a film curator, writer and filmmaker. He co-directs Il Cinema Ritrovato, the festival of classics and film restoration in Bologna. An architect by training, he has written extensively on film, architecture, and jazz, as well as on American and Iranian cinemas.