On 23 June 2022, we hosted a walking tour of alternative film spaces as part of the Cinema of Commoning Symposium.
Led by media scholar, curator and author Borjana Gaković, the City Tour of Cinema(tic) Encounters included a number of places in the city of particular importance to us at bi’bak.
As our cities become increasingly dominated by neoliberal structures, we believe it is vital to explore how non-commercial cultural spaces can find room to survive in the urban landscape. Each of the sites we visited on the tour, represented an attempt to offer an alternative to the mainstream and to demonstrate ways of advocating for film as a political force for social change.
We were delighted to be joined by guests and partners from around the world on the tour – including representatives from Forum Lenteng in Jakarta, La Clef Revival in Paris, Documentary Club in Bangkok, Cinema Arta in Romania and Geração 80 in Angola.
The city tour began with an introductory talk at SiNEMA TRANSTOPIA in Alexanderplatz, where we discussed the history of Berlin’s large and varied independent cinema scene and the challenges faced by these spaces in a rapidly gentrifying city. From there we travelled to Weissensee to visit Theatre im Delphi and Brotfabrik, two alternative arts venues which combine film, theatre and other cultural events and between them share a rich and eventful history.
In Prenzlauer Berg we arrived at the unique Kino Krokodil, a cinema dedicated to showcasing Russian and Eastern European films. Here we discussed the politics of transnational programming in the context of heightened geo-political turmoil.
At Silent Green, an independent cultural centre based inside a converted crematorium in Wedding, we discussed the blurred boundaries between film and visual art and the commercial challenges of operating with minimal state support. We were also lucky enough to take a look at their Agnes Varda exhibition, before embarking on a tour of the Arsenal Film and Video Archives, which are also located at this site and which contain over 10,000 films.
From film history, to film future – our next stop was a visit to the new site in Wedding, which will house SiNEMA TRANSTOPIA for the next few years. The building is still in the process of being adapted into a cinema space, and is due to open in October 2022.
Finally, we visited the former site of Sinema Kent (now Babylon Kino in Kreuzberg), a key site for Turkish cinema in Berlin during the 1970s, before rounding the tour off at Floating Berlin, a unique outdoor learning eco-site situated in the rainwater retention pool of the former Berlin Tempelhof Airport.