NO WAR PLEASE: Salem cinema opens the curtain on Ukrainian aid | News
SALEM — Marshall Strauss wants “no war, please,” and his cinema is helping to spread that message.
On Sunday, Cinema Salem will present what is believed to be the US big screen premiere of “The Guide,” a 2014 Ukrainian film that tells the story of the genocide of Ukrainians at the hands of the Soviets in the early 1930s.
The debut precedes a nationwide rollout of the film as cinemas and the film industry as a whole also begin to use it as a platform to raise awareness about the nearly decade-long Russian-Ukrainian war. This conflict has exploded in recent weeks with a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, a sequence of events that has thrown global markets and energy sectors into chaos.
The film tells the story of the Holodomor, also known as the Great Famine and the Terror-Famine, which caused the death of approximately 3.9 million Ukrainians from starvation and prevented the birth of 6, 1 million additional Ukrainians.
“This disaster was overshadowed by other disasters that began to form in Europe in the 1930s,” said Strauss, co-owner of the Salem Cinema with his wife Elaine Gerdine. “Now it all comes back tragically today, in front of all of us.”
This week, the words “NO WAR PLEASE” appeared on the marquee hanging above the Church Street entrance to the theatre, alongside a Ukrainian flag. The phrase is a nod to Andrey Rublev, a Russian tennis star who wrote “NO War Please” on the lens of a television camera broadcasting his match live around the world in late February.
“It’s not about my game, how it affects me,” Rublev told the media after the game. “What is happening is much more terrible. and as I said, you realize how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what, and to be united.
Strauss said the moment inspired him to take action and do more as the phrase went viral around the world. It echoed efforts he had been involved in decades earlier to air human rights documentaries on Russian television in the 1990s, as well as efforts to protect exiles from the Tiananmen Square massacre. He recalled efforts in 1989 to identify “Tank Man”, an unidentified Chinese man who stopped a column of tanks leaving the square by standing in front of them, a sequence of images now widely recognized around the world, except in China.
“We were unable to locate this person, although our searches suggested he was ultimately killed,” Strauss said. “This man in front of the tanks is such a photograph. The child in a Vietnamese village fleeing napalm is one of those moments.
“NO WAR PLEASE,” said Strauss, is this generation’s moment.
Tickets are free, though donations are both encouraged and solicited at the event, according to Strauss. Proceeds will benefit selected nonprofit organizations actively identified by the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. To RSVP, visit tinyurl.com/5n6v88dh.
Moving tickets was not a problem, according to Strauss. As of midday Thursday, efforts were underway to open a second screen for the film due to ticket availability for the initial screening.
At the time of Tuesday’s theater announcement, it was said that Sunday would represent the film’s first-ever screening in the United States, but Strauss said he was unsure if that had changed in the past few days. Since its announcement, the film has crossed the radars of some major players in the entertainment industry, according to Strauss.
“The screening of this film in Salem on Sunday will take place just before a nationwide rollout,” he said. “The movie industry is coming together to start showing this film on (Friday) March 18. All ticket revenue from across the country will be donated to Ukrainian humanitarian aid.”
The screening will also include remarks from Oles Sanin, the film’s director. He has pre-recorded a message but will attempt to appear live via video from Kyiv, Ukraine’s beleaguered capital.
“We’re working with him,” Strauss said, “with the very real possibility that the Internet link to Kiev will be cut by the Russians.”
John Andrews, founder of the Creative Collective and frequent partner of Cinema Salem, said the conflict also gives the arts a moment to shine and respond to the crisis in Ukraine.
“The power of the creative community has always brought hope and healing across the world,” Andrews said. “Any attention we can give to Ukrainian creators is something we can support.”
Andrews said he also sees the situation as an obligation, as does Strauss.
“With the continued devastation of Ukraine’s artistic and cultural assets, we felt it was our duty to do what we can to support in this time of crisis,” he said. “We support cinema in every way possible.”
To RSVP for the event, visit tinyurl.com/5n6v88dh.