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Theaters protest Orwellian political climate with “1984” screening


Hannah Crooks



Increasingly, connections between our current political climate and the dystopian film, 1984, have come clearer into view. This week, with a special screening at FilmScene, 118 E. College St., and other cinemas across the country, concerned citizens will have the opportunity to draw some of those connections themselves.


“The 1984 screening event was jointly organized by film colleagues of ours at sister cinemas,” FilmScene program director, Andy Brodie said. “And we wanted to join in solidarity, and also to provide local audiences with the chance to participate and engage with the film and the important and timely issues it raises.”


The screening and panel afterward act as both a demonstration of dissent and also a chance for supporters of the arts to come together and discuss political issues.


“Our shared aim is to voice our collective protest of many of our current administration’s policies and practices,” Brodie said. “And most specifically as art house cinemas, their alleged proposed cuts on cultural programs, including the possible elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts.”


Based on the book of the same name by George Orwell, 1984 shows what it is like to live under an extreme totalitarian government where people’s actions, and even their thoughts and desires, are monitored. Protagonist Winston Smith, played by John Hurt, attempts to resist Big Brother and its coercive power, but soon comes to realize he can trust almost no one.


A joint statement by the family of cinemas presenting the event commented on this.


“Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier… By doing what we 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.”


In addition to the screening and panel discussion, each of the cinemas was asked to select an organization to give proceeds to. FilmScene chose to give their proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).


“We chose ACLU of Iowa because the ACLU is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that does not receive any government funding and works to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in our country,” Brodie said. “Their work is highly relevant to themes and issues raised by Orwell’s book, and the adapted film.”


University of Iowa professor of political science, William Reisinger, commented on the relevancy of the themes in 1984 today. More specifically, he discussed the purpose of the checks and balances system in the United States.


“We give a lot of power to the state, but by that very fact it’s scary because they could then turn it against us,” Reisinger said. “It is, of course, one of the things that the founding fathers of America worried about a lot. That’s why they tried to put in place these checks and balances, because they didn’t want there to be one Big Brother that could breathe down the neck of everybody in the country and basically be telling everybody what to do and how to think.”


Overall, Reisinger believes that the power is up to the people, especially in a democratic society such as this one.


“I think there are some things about the government itself… that are a help, but the more important thing is what the people’s attitudes and beliefs are,” he said. “If the people understand that it’s important for them to have the government be limited, then for the most part I think it will continue to be the way it is.”


1984 screening

When: Tuesday, April 4, 6:00 p.m.

Where: FilmScene, 118 E. College St.

Cost: $10 suggested donation, optional

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