On April 4, 2017, Cinema St. Louis will join more than 90 art-house movie theaters and film organizations across the country in a National Screening Day of “1984” (Michael Radford, U.K., 1984, 111 min.). The screenings will occur in 81 cities, which are located in 35 states and one Canadian province. April 4 — the screening date — was chosen because that’s the day that George Orwell’s “1984” protagonist, Winston Smith, begins rebelling against his oppressive government by keeping a forbidden diary.

The free screening and discussion is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 4, at the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library, 1301 Olive St. Attendees should use the Locust Street entrance for easiest access to the auditorium. No tickets are necessary.

The post-screening discussion includes Sarah Kendzior, a St. Louis-based journalist, author of “The View from Flyover Country,” and an expert in authoritarian regimes; Gregory Magarian, professor of law at Washington University and expert in free speech and law in politics; and James Scott, emeritus professor of English at Saint Louis University, specialist in 19th and 20th-century British literature, and documentary filmmaker.

On its original release — in 1984 — Roger Ebert called Michael Radford’s adaptation of Orwell’s novel a “brilliant film.” Ebert wrote: “What is remarkable about the movie is how completely it satisfied my feelings about the book; the movie looks, feels, and almost tastes and smells like Orwell’s bleak and angry vision. John Hurt, with his scrawny body and lined and weary face, makes the perfect Winston Smith; and Richard Burton, looking so old and weary in this film that it is little wonder he died soon after finishing it, is the immensely cynical O’Brien, who feels close to people only while he is torturing them.” The screening will feature Radford’s director’s cut, which uses composer Dominic Muldoney’s orchestral score (rather than the release version’s pop/electronic soundtrack by the Eurythmics).

Orwell’s novel begins with the sentence, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” The National Screening Day participants collectively worry that the clock is already striking thirteen. Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures its own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies has never been timelier.

The National Screening Day of “1984” takes a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as “alternative facts.” The participating theaters and organizations hope to initiate a much-needed community conversation at a time when the existence of facts and basic human rights are under attack. Through nationwide participation, these screenings are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society.

The participating organizations also strongly believe in supporting the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, and see any attempt to scuttle those programs as an attack on free speech and creative expression through entertainment. The National Screening Day provides a chance for communities around the country to show their unity and have their voices heard.

Participating theaters that charge admission will be donating a portion of the proceeds to local charities and organizations or using the proceeds for the purposes of underwriting future educational and community-related programming.

Dylan Skolnick of the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, N.Y., and Adam Birnbaum of the Nova Theater Circuit, based in Stamford, Conn., are spearheading efforts to enlist other theaters to join the National Screening Day. They can be reached for further statement at UnitedStateOfCinema@gmail.com. For additional information about this event, visit www.unitedstateofcinema.org, which lists all participating theaters and organizations. V

Via Press Release