“See you at the film”
All of us have overheard our older acquaintances using the expression “see you at the film” whenever they were arranging a meeting point, meaning see you in front of the cinema. Although nowadays we use other expressions such as “at the cinema”, the old expression implies the significance of Jusuf Gërvalla cinema (previously known as Kino Rad) as a physical object on the regulation of the city map and the circulation of the people on the city, as well as the social role of the building as a social factor which could bring people together at the same place. Because the cinema has been highly frequented by the people, it has become one of the most distinguishable objects of the city where people found it the easiest to meet, and after so many years it continues to bring people together, even if they will not go inside the cinema to watch films, even if they simply continue walking on another direction together.
However, the tragedy of this building that brings people together, is that recently it has been placed under the procedures of privatization by the Privatization Agency of Kosovo. On January 30th, The Board of Directors has ruled that the object of cinema Jusuf Gërvalla will undergo the process of liquidation.
Cinema Jusuf Gërvalla is:
– a building that is listed on the cultural heritage objects list, objects which are protected by the institutions of the state, in this case the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sport,
-An object that own historical artefacts, camera, and projectors that in normal conditions should have been placed inside a film museum, and film posters dating in the 1950s
-An object which has been one of the most frequent places by the older generations since it started to offer artistic program, because it has been one of the few places in the city where cultural activities were held,
-An object which is not identified only as a cinema, but also as a theater, a home to many of the local actors whom have revised their plays there, and have experienced the emotions of the first play acted before their families and their friends,
-An object, whose stage has hosted the concerts of local musicians,
– An object which has provided a stage and an auditorium to tens of generations of kids from primary schools (and continues to do so), for them to perform their artistic programs for Abetare ceremony, or for their end of school year programs,
-An object that dates back to 1950’s with a brutalist architecture, that has been restored many times by local and international persons, aiming at preserving the building from decay and damage.
and nonetheless, cinema Jusuf Gërvalla, is an object that has been placed under the procedures of privatization!
16 years ago, I have recited my first poem before a public on the stage of this cinema, as part of my preschool program. Today, after 7 years of activism with Anibar for the culture of our city, a large part of which has been devoted to activating this cinema and turning it into a functioning cinema with full program, I have to react and mobilize for the protection from privatization of that very stage, the object of which is one of the only two cultural objects of my city! (the other one being the Professional City Theater, which is also inactive)
In absence of cultural spaces that we as a festival and as an organization would use to conduct our activities, we were compelled to improvise 3 open air cinemas across the city. Due to the motive and the passion to adjust the cultural conditions and circumstances of Peja that Anibar has as a companionship and as a movement, every year we build these cinemas and then take them down. Considering this fact, the act of liquidating the only static cinema that the city has, that is such an important cultural asset, is absolutely incomprehensible and irresponsible. After all, having a cinema in the city is nothing to brag for in 2017, since it is expected of normal cities to have a fully functioning cinema and for the activity of movie going to be regular. For instance, Istanbul has 256 cinemas with 36,763 seats, and in 2015 only they have sold 60,470,430 tickets alone, which is more than triple of the total number of inhabitants of Istanbul! However, in Peja’s case, the survival of the only static cinema of the city dating since 1950s, seems very insignificant and irrelevant.
There is no healthy mindset that invites the process of liquidation for an object that has so much social value, that very easily can be transformed into an apartment building, office building, supermarket, or a graveyard for old cars. How can the soul of the city be sold? Since 2010, the cinema is the only hub in the city that is pushing cultural and artistic values forwards. Nonetheless, this process seems to be ignorant of the collective memory, of culture, and for the tangible historical heritage that exists within the environment of the cinema.
Anibar is making sure to follow the process closely, and has already undertaken a few actions that will try to stop the process of the privatization of the cinema, however knowing the authority of this process which is even disregarding the decisions of the court that the property actually belong to the Municipality of Peja, we are bound to resist as active citizens and to support the movement for the cinema of Peja to remain to its people. Let the cinema remain a public property, let it be used by the artistic community, let us develop and educate there, let’s expand the cultural and film production from there, let’s bring back the audience to the chairs of the cinema and return the dignity of people and the dignity of this building.
Having said that, I invite you tonight at the cinema for the next event starting at 19:00 with a super quality local program, that starts with the screening of Ferdonija documentary directed by Gazmend Bajri, and that will continue with the rerun of HOME – the winner of BAFTA. The evening will end with a concert of beautiful folk music performed by Nezafete Shala and Melodia e Vjetër.
Not only tonight, but until the decision is taken that the cinema remains to the city, I will be seeing you at the film!
*The text has been originally written in Albanian