'New regulations' blamed for temporary blow to capital's cinema scene
Abu Dhabi cinema fans can relax after last-minute cancellation because Cinema Space screenings will return next week
Cinema fans in the capital were shocked over the weekend by the cancellation of this week’s programme at Cinema Space Abu Dhabi, one of the capital’s main venues for world and underground cinema, although by Sunday the situation appeared to have been resolved, with screenings set to recommence from the weekend.
“We regret to inform you that the scheduled screenings for Saturday, October 20 for King Kong and Kaos and Monday, October 22 for Chico and Rita have sadly been cancelled. We were informed by our host venue very late on Thursday that due to new regulations and requirements being imposed by the Department of Culture and Tourism these voluntarily organised community programmes would be cancelled,” the statement said.
The statement, which was mailed to members of Cinema Space’s mailing list, added that if no solution could be found, it seemed likely that all future screenings may have to be cancelled: “If no exception is possible and these new requirements remain in place then it will be very difficult to continue these programs for the community,” it said. “At the moment we are not entirely sure if it will be possible to reschedule these specific screenings or continue with any of the other series of films presented with the kind participation of the Embassy of Italy, Embassy of Spain, Embassy of Sweden, Korean Cultural Center, Goethe-Institut Gulf Region and Institut-francais.”
Thankfully, by Sunday the legislative issues had been solved. Cinema Space founder Mohamed Khawaja told The National: “I don’t exactly know what the issue was, just that new regulations affected all the programmes being in compliance and everything had to be cancelled at the last minute. Thankfully the management of Manarat Al Saadiyat have been really helpful. They had the conversations they needed to have over the weekend, and as of now we should be back on track from next week. I’m really grateful to them because I don’t even know what it is they needed to do, but it would have been impossible to do it on my own.”
From this Saturday’s screening of Last Train to Busan, in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Centre, Cinema Space’s programme will continue as normal, and Khawaja is in the process of rescheduling the three films that were cancelled this week: “I’m rearranging the cancelled ones from this week to give people a chance to re-register,” he explained. “Once you’ve cancelled people probably won’t come, so we're still cancelling for now, but my big concern was the films I had coming up in collaboration with the embassies as I really didn’t want to let them down. I’m still working on confirming a new date for Kaos as I need to work around the Italian embassy’s schedule too, but I hope to have all the new dates finalised and the website updated with the new schedule by this evening.”
Khawaja, who was formerly part of the programming team at Abu Dhabi Film Festival, established Cinema Space in January 2014, initially in the now-defunct Space at twofour54. At first he would screen his own Blu-Ray versions of movies on the big screen, but as word spread about his project he increasingly found himself working with archives, distributors, cultural organisations and embassies – The Swedish Embassy, for example, are currently working alongside Khawaja on an ongoing programme celebrating the centenary of Ingmar Bergman, with the Swedish ambassador or his representatives introducing the films, while Kaos is part of a series focusing on the Mediterranean that the Italian embassy has been presenting since May.
Cinema Space currently organises three screenings a week – world cinema on a Monday evening, a family matinee on a Saturday afternoon, and a further feature screening on Saturday evening, with a strong focus on restored classics. “I mostly worked with restored classics for the film festival, so that’s kind of my driving force,” Khawaja explains. “It’s not the same watching them on TV, so it’s great to have this great screen and auditorium to show them. I just see it as my way of giving back to the community.”
All screenings are free, and the full, updated programme can be viewed on Cinema Space’s website.
The National has approached Manarat Al Saadiyat for further clarification of the regulatory changes, however no one was available for immediate comment.