How much anarchy is in street cinema?

Where does A Wall is a Screen take place?

A Wall is a Screen is a one-off event presented approximately 15-20 times per year in various cities around the world. Our tours are often presented in collaboration with film festivals, other cultural institutions, or even municipal sponsors. You can see where our next tour will take place under dates, or you can sign up for our newsletter to be informed regularly.

How much does it cost to participate in an A Wall is a Screen tour?

Participation in our tours is free of charge.

Do I have to register for participation?

No, registration is not necessary. Just come to the indicated starting point.

How long does an A Wall is a Screen tour last?

Our regular tours average about 90 minutes depending on the size of our audience. We schedule children's events at approximately 60 minutes.

How many people participate in your tours?

It varies depending on the city we are in. Usually there are about 200 people. Large tours with 400-600 people are not uncommon. The largest crowd we have toured with was around 1500 people.

In which language are the films shown?

Our films are always shown in their original version. The subtitles are always in English or also in the local language of the host country. For children's tours we avoid subtitles and stay in the language of the country we are in or show films without dialogues.

How many films are shown?

We usually show seven films at seven different locations. This can also vary depending on the length of the film program.

I would like to organize an event with you, how do I go about it?

Feel free to send us a request to info@awallisascreen.com

How did you get into street cinema? What drove you?

A Wall is a Screen was founded in 2003 by Antje Haubenreisser, Kerstin Budde and Peter Stein, who were the technical directors of the Hamburg International Short Film Festival at the time. They wanted to create a non-commercial short film event that would use public space and present it in a different light. At that time - and not only in Hamburg - the predominant use of city centers was purely commercial. People shopped during the day and the cities were deserted at night. Cultural use, especially in a non-commercial way, was virtually non-existent. A Wall is a Screen wanted to counteract this imbalance. The aim was to create a low-threshold event that was free of charge for viewers and that would show that public space can be used creatively by everyone, while also conveying content through the short films we screened. From the outset, it was important for A Wall is a Screen to use the films shown to comment on the places used and to create a new level of perspective on these places.

How do you explore new cities and discover new locations?

For most of our tours, especially those outside our home city of Hamburg, we work with local partners with whom we define a basic concept and a certain area for the tour. The approach differs depending on the size of the city in which we are planning the tour. In a city like Tallinn for example, it was relatively clear that we wanted to start in the city center.  In very large cities, such as Paris or London, we sometimes go to parts of the city outside the center that are not necessarily the places you would go to as a tourist. The exploration itself is then literally done with our feet, by walking a lot through the cities. We explore the selected area, find the first places that are exciting for us and try to go off the beaten track. Bit by bit, a route then crystallizes. Sometimes, however, there is already a start and end location in advance and the task is then to connect these places in a meaningful and interesting way. However, we almost always try to find ways and places that are surprising and unexpected for the audience.

Even though street cinema is certainly very entertaining, you want more than just entertainment. Is there a content agenda? How do you select the films for the respective locations?

Due to our personal backgrounds, but also inherent to the nature of the project, topics such as urban development, gentrification and other social aspects are strongly present in the programs and films. Depending on the theme and orientation of the tour's framework, such topics can be found more strongly or more in the background. Basically, the fact that we are holding A Wall is a Screen as a non-commercial event in public space is already a statement in relation to the use of this very space, so the themes do not necessarily have to appear in the films. In the meantime, we also run tours whose films deal with completely different and sometimes entertaining topics, such as music or historical films, or which are specially compiled for children. In all cases, however, it is important that the audience is fascinated by what we do and is naturally also entertained. We would notice very quickly if the program was uninteresting for the audience. In contrast to a movie theater, we don't have a seat that "holds you in" and you can leave very quickly if you don't like it. That's why we have to give the audience good reasons to stay until the end.

However, A Wall is a Screen is not meant to be purely superficial entertainment; the meaningful thematic combination of location and film is very important. We now have quite a lot of experience in finding the right movie for the respective location. Sometimes the connection is very obvious and thematic - for example, a movie about money at a bank. In many cases, however, the connection only becomes apparent at second glance, for example when we play very abstractly with the architecture or the historical background of a building, which admittedly are usually the more exciting combinations for us.

You describe how your type of cinema opens up new perspectives on the city. How do you go about creating this effect?

In every city, there are usually very fixed routes from A to B for the inhabitants and places that are more present than others. We try to move outside these paths and bring places or walls into focus where it is not obvious to most people that they can be used for a cultural purpose and in particular for a film projection. For the duration of our tour and in relation to the locations, for the duration of a film, these places suddenly come into the spotlight and from then on will always be associated with the fact that a film was shown there for everyone who was there. A previously overlooked backyard, an inconspicuous side wall or even the main square of a city are thus given a new virtual level by us, which can perhaps also be a stimulus for a different approach to these places.

Your cinema tours are precisely prepared and in most cases probably approved. Nevertheless, they have the charm of "guerrilla culture". How much anarchy is there in street cinema?

For us, the principle applies that the tours should be approved by the authorities in general. What this approval looks like naturally varies from place to place. In some cities and countries everything has to be very precise, in others there are more general permits. It is often difficult to make it clear to the respective licensors what we are doing in the first place. If there are problems with permits in certain places for reasons that are not really clear to us, we have to be creative in the broadest sense. The extent to which we override something must, of course, be tailored to the respective city and, in particular, the circumstances of the country we are in. In Germany, you can get away with a lot with the right to use public space. In some countries, of course, this can look completely different. We have fun testing boundaries, but ultimately we also have a responsibility towards our local partners and our audience.

You have traveled around the world with your tours. Do you have to approach your work differently depending on the country? What similarities and differences are there in the way the audience perceives you?

In the 20 years that A Wall is a Screen has been around, we have now been guests in more than 30 different countries. These have included countries such as Japan, India, the Palestinian territories and Thailand, which are culturally very different from Germany and Europe. We definitely need to respond to the circumstances and cultural differences here. In particular, the use of public space is approached very differently in many countries than we are used to. Cultural events on the street are very unusual in many places and, as in the case of Japan, highly regulated. In the Palestinian territories, the political aspect of everything that is done in public is always very much to the fore. In India, traveling mobile cinemas are a very common thing, but not in the way we do it. That's why we naturally take a very close look at the local situation. It is very important to us that we work together with local institutions and filmmakers so that we do not appear as a completely unconnected foreign body. Intercultural dialog and getting to know and working with other local people is also a very important part of our work with A Wall is a Screen.

One of the most interesting differences for our work is the perception of events and, of course, especially films in public spaces. In southern Europe, for example, life takes place outside on the street in the evening anyway. It's normal to put the TV in front of the house or to watch movies in the open air, so a movie projection on the wall of a house doesn't necessarily attract attention. In other countries, the whole thing is viewed rather skeptically with the question of whether it is even allowed. But once the audience is involved, it doesn't really matter where you are and everyone is enthusiastic. Sometimes the differences in perception can be found on your own doorstep - audiences in Hamburg, Osnabrück, Berlin or Aalen in Westphalia can react very differently to us.

Does cinema mean the same thing worldwide?

In our case, we can mainly talk about cinema on the street and the connecting element is the same worldwide. A group of people who, in case of doubt, didn't know each other beforehand, get involved in wandering through the night with us to watch films. This automatically creates a group feeling and a connection between us as curators and organizers and the audience that doesn't exist in a traditional cinema auditorium. If English does not work as a lingua franca, we either have it translated or do without films with dialog so that everyone can be involved.  This means that all A Wall is a Screen tours - whether in Ulyanovsk, Toronto, Tromsø or Prizren - always create something unique that brings people together in your city for a duration of around 90 minutes (and sometimes even longer).

I have made a film that I would like to see at one of your tours, do you accept submissions?

You are welcome to send us a viewing link, however we cannot promise at all that we will include certain films in our programs.