New cinema Amude in Rojava is a necessary dream, let's rebuild it together

A crowdfunding is underway to rebuild the cinema Amude in Rojava. The old cinema was destroyed in a fire in 1960, in which 282 children died.

A crowdfunding is underway to rebuild the cinema Amude in Rojava. The old cinema was destroyed in a fire in 1960. The project is promoted by the Rojava Film Commune, a collective of filmmakers who have been working since 2015 to promote the visual arts in the autonomous region of Rojava/North-East Syria. In Italy, the campaign for the reconstruction of cinema is promoted by Ya Basta Bologna in collaboration with Un Ponte per, ARCI and UIKI Onlus.

The city of Amude has a population of just over 56,000 inhabitants, mostly Kurds, a large Arab minority and a significant presence of Assyrian citizens. The Amude cinema was the only one in the region, destroyed in a terrible fire in 1960.

The city of Amude and the tragic history of the old cinema

The cinema fire in Amude is a tragedy deeply rooted in the memory of Kurdish society. It was 13 November 1960, when hundreds of students were led to the only cinema in the city of Amude, the Şehrazad, for the screening of the Egyptian film "The Midnight Ghost". The Ba'athist regime had ordered a "week of solidarity" with the struggle for Algeria's independence from France and collected donations for the "Algerian brothers".

Therefore, in Amude, all students had to attend the screening of the film, paying the relevant entrance fee. The film had already been screened several times without concerns about overcrowding. The cinema had a maximum capacity of 200 seats, but that day well over 400 children sat in the auditorium. The authorities had been warned of the dangers due to the cinema's poor safety, but they decided to continue. During that screening, the room was invaded by a fire whose flames quickly spread up to the wooden truss of the ceiling, covered in straw and mud. In the escape through narrow doors inadequate for evacuation, 282 children between the ages of eight and fourteen died.

The new Amude cinema

Reconstructing the cinema Amude means contributing to the construction of a collective memory of the peoples and cultures living in the city and more generally in Northern and Eastern Syria, as well as keeping alive the memory of the many children whose lives were interrupted on 13 November 1960.

The new cinema will be designed and conceived as a safe, welcoming and multipurpose place of art, culture and aggregation.

Thanks to the experience and not only professional ties that many of us have intertwined for years with the Kurdish community and with the Rojava Film Commune, expressed in 2022 through a traveling film festival of which three stages took place in the city of Mantua, last year, a project was born for the reconstruction of the historic cinema Amude, supported by the "New Amude Cinema" Committee.

Guided by the principles of environmental sustainability, the volunteer architects involved in drafting the project will take care of the concept and follow the construction of the structure, guaranteeing safety, comfort and full accessibility for people with disabilities.

Capacity, flooring, energy-saving lighting, and a multiporpuse stage will be designed in detail for a space capable of hosting presentations, conferences and theatrical activities.

Not only events, but also a daily workshop and artistic residency activity, with rehearsal rooms and equipment, open to girls and adults.