A story about a cinema: the fall & rise of Zvezda
On Friday, 21 November 2014, a group of young people came together with the same goal: to revive one of the oldest cinemas in Belgrade, Zvezda (eng. „Star“). Mostly film students from Belgrade, they cleaned it up, brought their own equipment and started organizing free projections of Yugoslav and World classics and contemporary films. The cinema was supposed to be demolished, and the newly-founded “Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas” was determined to save it.
The history of Zvezda
Before it was closed, Zvezda was one of the crowning jewels of the Yugoslav film industry. You could say that the former Yugoslavia loved movies, and Serbian movies in the 1960s were some of the most provocative ones in the world at the time.
How did it come to this?
The cinema Zvezda belonged to the state-owned company called “Beograd film” together with 13 more cinemas. This company has been sold in 2007 to a London-based businessman Nikola Đivanović. Instead of honoring his contract and keeping the original purpose of each cinema, Đivanović sold them as business premises (cafés, sandwich shops, etc). Đivanović’s statement at the time was: “Belgrade cinemas have died almost twenty years ago, I have just buried them”. After being arrested and serving a 20 month sentence, he payed a 3.1 million fee, but still remained the owner of the unsold cinema Zvezda, the only cinema in Belgrade with surviving infrastructure.
More than just a cinema
Famous Serbian director, Srđan Golubović, sees the “occupation” of Zvezda as an important act by young people who have decided to be brave enough and show the media that they are against the destruction of culture. He said that these people have “occupied” Zvezda for Belgrade and for all of its people. Not so long ago, Belgrade was the capital of a vibrant cultural life, and the situation today is that museums, cinemas and theatres are barely standing. Privatization has in many ways overrun the culture.
Zvezda is still open, under the name of “New Cinema Zvezda”. Currently, the new staff of “ocupators” is preparing the cinema for spring and summer projections. Nobody is giving up. These people can be the example that we have to fight for what we want to preserve. There can be no change without trying. The cultural life in Serbia has in many ways suffered over the years, but that doesn’t stop young and optimistic people to try their best to save it. The youth is finally fighting to make our future better, one cinema at a time.
Check out this short video the “occupators” made about the New Cinema Zvezda