December 25, 2011

‘Occupy Emek’: Cinephiles, Film Professionals Speak up for Historic Emek Theater

The weather was freezing but the air was full of passion, solidarity and rebellion for a cause -- this past Saturday will be remembered in Turkey as the day that thousands of people walked in Istanbul's Beyoğlu to protest the planned destruction of the legendary Emek Theater, one of the oldest and most prominent cinemas in the city, which is slated to be replaced by a shopping mall.


Jointly organized by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- including Beyoğlu İçin Mücadele İnisiyatifi (the Initiative for Beyoğlu, an umbrella platform formed by numerous foundations and societies working to protect and preserve the historic Beyoğlu area), the Turkish Film Critics Association (SİYAD), the Turkish Cinema Workers' Union (SİNESEN), Yeni Sinema Hareketi (the New Cinema Movement, a collective that brings together young Turkish art house filmmakers) -- and several other not-for-profit groups, the protest rally started at 4 p.m. in Taksim Square with the participation of movie professionals, film critics, journalists, film festival organizers, architects and concerned civilians who refuse to allow gentrification to take over the Beyoğlu district.

At the beginning of the demonstration the group's slogans were mainly along the lines of, “Emek is ours, the city is ours.” When the group came in front of the Demirören Mall, the slogans took a shift: “You are the real freak of the city,” they changed, referring to the Demirören Group's massive mall next to Emek. Some protesters took the liberty of throwing eggs at two of the shops located on the ground floor of the mall.

The group continued to the street where Emek is located, where a press statement was read.

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