Why would a cinema collective based in Amsterdam organize a cycle of screenings on Italian anti-fascism? This is the beginning of a trip to a little movie theatre on the second floor of a former squat, where a passionate cinephile tells a tale on Amsterdam underground culture, antifascist resistance and movie screenings on a boat.
On April 10th, the cinema collective Cinema of the Dam’d, in OT301, organized a movie night on Italian anti-fascism. Why would a cultural association based in the Netherlands care about Italian politics? This question was the starting point of a bike ride to this massive building, located on Overtoom 301.
To the general public, OT301 is mostly known for its DJ sets on weekends. However, OT301, or OT, is also a non-profit organization that regroups people that share a common interest for arts, politics and subcultures of Amsterdam. Their mission started in 1999 when a group of artists named Vereniging Eerste Hulp Bij Kunst (“First Aid Association for Art”) squatted the building, a shabby abandoned film academy. Their mission was to create a new space where creative people could live and work together. In 2007, when they got a mortgage to buy the building, their legal situation switched from squatters to legal renters. Today, OT is an organisation of 24 members that host different kinds of projects: concerts, theatre and dance performances, yoga workshops, aerial sports classes, a vegan organic kitchen, among others. Cinema of the Dam’d is one of the multiple projects offered by OT.
Cinema of the Dam’d was founded in September 2017 by a group of former UvA master in cultural analysis students: Italian Jacopo Fiorancio, Catalonian Iona Sharp Casas, American Matt Cornell and Jennifer Bronson, Dutch Nadia de Vries and Anglo-Dutch Elinor Gittins. They shared the same passion for cinema, which encouraged them to do something related to it. Former cinema academy OT had a movie theatre on the second floor, which was exactly what they were looking for. They started organizing cycles of movie screenings on different themes, from tributes to David Bowie’s cinematographic career to science fiction on Sunday morning. Providing free admission to their shows, they rely on donations.
In the past few years, Italy has been experiencing an alarming neo-fascist waive, poorly covered by the Italian media or reported by left-wing parties. According to The Guardian, “More than 70 years after Benito Mussolini’s death, thousands of Italians are joining self-described fascist groups in a surge of support that anti-fascist groups blame on the portrayal of the refugee crisis, the rise of fake news and the country’s failure to deal with its past.” This tendency, accentuated with the upraising European populism, was reflected in last Italian elections results on March 4th, 2018. A significant rise was seen in the two parties that oppose the establishment the most: the populist Five-Star Movement and the far-right Lega party (League).
As many of expatriates from Italy, Fiorancio has been observing the scary political situation of his home country from abroad. According to the Facebook page of Cinema of the Dam’d, the screenings of anti-fascist Italian movies were done in order to “respond to the recent victory of right-wing parties and regressive politics in the Italian elections.” Fiorancio selected an eclectic cinematographic mix, ranging from classic masterpieces as Fellini’s Amarcord, which portraits a small village in 1930s during Mussolini’s fascist regime, to Daniele Vicari’s Diaz: Don’t clean up this blood, a movie that denounces the police raid in Diaz’ school during the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa, where a group of 93 peaceful no-global protesters was tortured and, in some cases, brutally injured.
Are neo-fascism and populism an issue in the Netherlands as well? According to Fiorancio, they are. The right-wing populist Freedom Party (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, was second in last year’s general elections, while the recent far-right Forum for Democracy party (FVD) founded in 2016 is now trailing Prime Minister’s Mark Rutte’s, center-right VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), by 8 percent. Both PVV and FVD campaign against Muslim immigration and aim to ban the burqa, the Quran and other symbols of the Islamic culture. Theo Hiddema, an FVD member, recently claimed in an interview with De Telegraaf that “there is a link between IQ and race.” For a country with a long-standing liberal tradition as the Netherlands, the consensus gained by these forces is alarming. In this political climate, spaces like the OT301 that consider diversity and freedom of expression as fundamental values are a precious resource to be defended.
In the upcoming weeks, Cinema of the Dam’d has already some projects in sight: live concerts during movie screenings, poetry readings in the dark, debates on Amsterdam housing crisis. At some point, Fiorancio highlighted that one of his many cinephile friends, once projected a movie about a shipwreck on a boat sailing around Amsterdam as a private event.