Art-house theaters in 187 US cities, across 44 states – as well as five theaters in Canada and one each in the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Croatia – are showing the 1984 version of the film on Tuesday, April 4.
“This date was chosen because it’s the day George Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith begins rebelling against his oppressive government by keeping a forbidden diary,” organizers of the event, dubbed the United State of Cinema, said on their website.
“Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier,” they added.
— Avon Theatre (@AvonTheatre) April 4, 2017
In the novel, published in 1949, Orwell wrote about a dystopian Britain – part of the mega-state of Oceania and sometimes called “Airstrip One” – ruled by English Socialism (Ingsoc), which manipulated reality and imposed a restrictive new language (Newspeak) in an effort to curb thought itself.
“Our concern is the idea that the only answer is the one coming from the mouthpiece running the (Trump) administration and that there’s this effort to sort of snuff out anything but that,” Adam Birnbaum of the Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, Connecticut, and one of the organizers of the event, told Reuters.
“If nothing else, we hope that people will continue to be voices of opposition to some of the practices that are currently being employed by government,” he added.
The version of the movie that will be screened was made in 1984 by British director Michael Radford, starring John Hurt as Smith and Richard Burton, in his last big-screen role, as prominent party member O’Brien.
“Everything that is happening in that film, and in that book, is happening today in the world: surveillance, fake news, the endless threat to our passive, imagined bucolic society,” Radford said in a short video filmed for the April 4 screenings.
— The Loft Cinema (@TheLoftCinema) April 4, 2017
The first screen adaptation of Orwell’s book was produced with CIA funding in 1956. The agency reportedly called for the ending to be changed, in order to bolster the anti-Soviet propaganda message, according to British journalist and historian Frances Stonor Saunders, Hollywood Reporter noted.
Orwell’s widow Sonia reportedly hated the 1956 film and was willing to sell the movie rights to American lawyer Marvin Rosenblum in 1980, shortly before dying of a brain tumor.
The purpose of the April 4 event is to “galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community” and foster “resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society,” the United State of Cinema said.
Some of the participating theaters are donating proceeds from the tickets to charities.