“We are fuelled by a desire to bring down the government” – well, tick that box
2016 is not only the Year of the Monkey, it is also the fifth year of activities for the Sunshine Socialist Cinema. When we started out, way back when, we set up some goals for ourselves that were quite modest, in hindsight. We called it our five year plan, on the basis that our primary goal was to simply exist for five years before giving up and shutting down. During these five years, we would screen art videos in our small village in the countryside, and power the screenings by solar panels. We also wanted to see what would happen if we openly proclaimed ourselves as socialist, in an area of Sweden traditionally dominated politically by the right. Who would we attract? What would we talk to them about?
The first revision of our goals came after only two screenings. We had sent out invitations to various leftwing and environmentalist organzations in the region. During those first screenings, members of the audience would come up to us afterwards and offer their opinions on the films that had been shown. That’s when we figured out that they should have said these things to each other, during the screening – the local left and the local greens could discuss these videos together. We had to figure out how to create an atmosphere that would allow for this to happen, to make it easy to speak out in front of each other. Such an obvious thing, but it still came to us through practice and not forethought.
We also wondered if artists would allow us to screen their videos in a cinema that labelled itself socialist – not to say that we would label their works in any way. The very first artist we got in touch with was Harun Farocki, asking him if we could screen his film Workers Leaving the Factory. He replied not only with a yes, but with a letter of support, of sorts, which meant a lot to us. Over the years, we have had positive replies from all but two or three artists.
We hadn’t counted on reaching people outside of our local area, other than through what we wrote on our blog and in our emails. But gradually we got more and more invites from various art institutions, asking us to come and do screenings with them. So we had to figure out not only how to set it up technically, but also how to make it meaningful for us as a cinema. Over the years, we’ve done screenings outside art museums and independent art spaces, biennales and film festivals. The fees we got from this was used to finance the screenings and the equipment at our main site in the village.
More goals and more purpose has been added along the way. One is that we want to mean something to the village we’re in, irrespective of the political bent of the people there. When we first came to this village, there was a small library in its’ centre. The library has since been shut down due to municipal budget cuts. We decided to add a small reference library to our cinema, with books that could be borrowed home by people who live in the village. The books are paid for by the fees generated by outside screenings, and by the money we make from a study group at the local Workers Educational Association (ABF).
Another goal added is that we want to try to spread the format of our cinema, to share what we’ve learned and the experiences we’ve made, with people who might be interested in trying something similar. We don’t want to be a monopoly operation. In 2015 we printed a 40-page manual, which we hand out for free at screenings, and which is made available at various libraries. You can also find it here on the blog, as a PDF.
The Year of the Monkey is not the end of us though. This is not a goodbye speech. Our first goal wasn’t to exist for five years, but for AT LEAST five years. It’s time for us to come up with a new five year plan. It seems appropriate for us to be less modest in our ambitions this time.
There will be a screening in our village this summer, tied to a jubilee celebration.
Then there will be more.