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Orwell's '1984' back in theaters in stand against 'alternative facts'

| Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 5:45 p.m.
Chad Newman, an employee at The Picture House Regional Film Center, places letters on a sign board ahead of the screening for the movie 1984, in Pelham, N.Y., on April 4, 2017.
Chad Newman, an employee at The Picture House Regional Film Center, places letters on a sign board ahead of the screening for the movie 1984, in Pelham, N.Y., on April 4, 2017.

NEW YORK — Nearly 200 independent movie theaters across the country on Tuesday screened the film of George Orwell's “1984” novel about a dystopian future, in what organizers say is a stand against President Trump's administration.

The 1949 book, which returned to the best-seller list in January, features a “Big Brother” government that spies on its citizens and forces them into “doublethink,” or simultaneously accepting contradictory versions of the truth.

The movie based on the book was released in 1984, starring John Hurt and Richard Burton.

Organizers the United State of Cinema said the screenings across 44 states were arranged to “take a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as ‘alternative facts.'”

At a packed afternoon screening of “1984” held at the Film Society at Lincoln Center in Manhattan, New York resident Laura Fliegner was in attendance with her husband.

“We think it makes a statement, going to see it again, and remind ourselves what happens when you slide off a slippery slope,” Fliegner said.

Nicolas Rapold, who helped organize the Lincoln Center screening, said he expects at least 100 people to attend each of the three free screenings at the venue.

The British novel was reprinted in January, decades after it was written, following the Trump administration's defense of “alternative facts,” a term White House official Kellyanne Conway used during a dispute over the size of the crowd at Trump's inauguration.

Adam Birnbaum, director of Film Programming for the Avon Theatre Film Center in Stamford, Conn., and co-organizer of the event, said Orwell's themes were just as relevant today as they were nearly 70 years ago.

“Our concern is the idea that the only answer is the one coming from the mouthpiece running the (Trump) administration and that there's this effort to sort of snuff out anything but that,” Birnbaum said.

He added that a number of the theaters showing “1984” on Tuesday had scheduled post-film audience discussions.

“If nothing else, we hope that people will continue to be voices of opposition to some of the practices that are currently being employed by government,” he said.

After the afternoon screening at Lincoln Center, Fliegner said, “It's all just very chilling” as she exited the theater.

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