Big Brother will be watching—or more accurately, millions will be watching Big Brother, as movie theaters across the country and world, including the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, collectively host a National Event Day screening of the dystopian thriller, 1984.
Based on George Orwell’s presciently terrifying novel, the movie by writer-director Michael Radford stars Richard Burton as a villain, Suzanna Hamilton as a romantic, and John Hurt as Winston Smith, a dutiful drone in a totalitarian state, who begins to fathom the depth of his oppression by a government that he always took for granted.
The film will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on April 4 at nearly 200 independent art-house movie theatres across the country and several internationally, with a post-film discussion at the Cinema Arts moderated by Prof. Marty Haas, who teaches American history at Adelphi University. The date of the screening is especially relevant because it was on this day that Smith began his rebellion by making his first entry in his forbidden diary. It’s what Big Brother’s Thought Police would call a “thought crime” because they don’t want anyone thinking independently. Smith’s job at the government’s Ministry of Truth had been to rewrite history, eliminating inconvenient truths and erasing incongruent facts. For some reason, he suddenly woke up.
The timing of the mass screening is also pertinent because many American theater owners strongly believe in supporting the National Endowment for the Arts, which would be eliminated in the federal budget proposed by President Trump. This coordinated screening is intended to serve as a forum and protest for those who see any attempt to curtail the NEA as an attack on free speech and creative expression through entertainment. The synchronized global screening is a joint effort by the United State of Cinema and Art House Convergence. Cinema Arts Centre is also an organizer of the event.
“A lot of us have felt that [with] the current administration, a lot of our most essential values are sort of under assault,” Dylan Skolnick, Cinema Arts Centre’s co-director, recently explained to the L.A. Times. “In particular, things like the existence of actual facts. And 1984 has had this sudden uptick in popularity because it really explores a lot of those issues.”
Here at the Cinema Arts, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Since Trump became president and the conservative Republicans cemented their control of both houses of Congress and soon the Supreme Court, sales of Orwell’s dystopian novel have soared, propelling the book first published in 1949 to the best-seller lists. The central theme is the heroic struggle of one individual against tyranny. Orwell prophetically saw the planet divided into three superpowers: Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. He also predicted nuclear missiles, microprocessors and “Newspeak,” which we know today as alternative facts, thanks to Trump’s spokesperson Kellyanne Conway.
Radford won the rights to the novel from Orwell’s widow Sonia by promising to adhere closely to Orwell’s vision. Working against the clock with his producer Simon Perry, he was actually able to finish the film so it could premiere in the same year of its title. It’s haunting, disturbing and inspiring. And it couldn’t be more relevant to what’s going on today in our beleaguered republic.