You are sitting in a car. Not your own car. You actually have no idea whose car this is. All you know is that this car was lovingly placed on the rooftop of a historic building, here in downtown Ramallah. And that you’ve been watching a 1970s Egyptian Western. The smell of popcorn fills the air, and you’ve gotten the steering wheel a little buttery.
Cinema Sayyara is a rooftop drive-in cinema by the artist Phil Collins, commissioned by the 5th Riwaq Biennale (RB5). It is the latest edition of Collins’ Auto-Kino! project which was rolled out in Berlin five years ago. The film program has been collectively selected by artists, filmmakers and Ramallah Old Town & Beit Saa Neighbours.
The project runs only for four weeks, and offers a maximum of 21 seats per night. But if you live nearby, you can watch the program from your balcony by using a standard FM/AM frequency, and catching the soundtrack on your radio.
Cinema Sayyara thinks through existing structures in order to produce new forms of public display, and create new audiences in the process. Its host venue, Beit Saa, is a 1910 edifice newly renovated by Riwaq in cooperation with Ramallah Municipality and Funded by Institute de Patrimoine Wallon and Wallon Bruxelle International. Eventually, Beit Saa is planned to join the ranks of the many “museums” in Palestine. But instead of a homage to the past, in the name of some faraway future, Cinema Sayara proposes a celebration of the here and now. It suggests that contemporary art, architectural conservation and cultural policy need not be in conflict with dynamic local engagements. And it hopes to spark a sense of curiosity, enthusiasm, and collective ownership, within the neighborhood and beyond.
The film program has been selected by the friends & families of the neighborhood Islamic Youth Club, artists Emily Jacir, Oraib Toukan & Ala Younis, Subversive Films artist collective, filmmakers Peggy Ahwesh, Casey Asprooth Jackson and Khadijeh Habashneh, curators Rasha Salti & Tirdad Zolghadr, and Phil Collins & Siniša Mitrović of Shady Lane Productions.