WATERVILLE — Railroad Square Cinema is joining the ranks of hundreds of small theaters around the country in protesting some actions of the Trump administration by showing a classic film about those who rebel against a totalitarian government in a dystopian future.

Like many theaters across 43 states, Waterville’s Railroad Square Cinema on Tuesday afternoon will show the classic film “1984,” which was based on the George Orwell novel of the same name, published in 1949.

Ken Eisen is the man behind bringing “1984” to Waterville. Eisen, the programming director of the Maine Film Center, which is run through the nonprofit independent cinema, said screening the film is intended to prompt discussion about individual freedoms and liberties. The other theaters in Maine participating in the Tuesday event include the Center Theatre in Dover-Foxcroft and the Gem in Bethel. Locations of other states with participating theaters range from Florida all the way to Alaska, while theaters in Canada, England and Sweden are involved, bringing the total to 180 theaters.

“All those things seem in more danger than they have in a long time to a lot of people,” Eisen said.

Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, New York, is one of the two organizers of the national movement. The Cinema Arts Center created the United State of Cinema, which is the national movement through which “1984” is being played in theater houses across the country and abroad. All the theaters will be showing the film on Tuesday, April 4, which is the date on which the story’s main character begins a diary, constituting the first instance of rebellion against the government and its ominous figurehead, Big Brother. Like many other theaters showing the film, Railroad Square Cinema will be donating a portion of the proceeds of ticket sales to a local charity.

Skolnick said the goal of all this is to create a conversation about what’s going on in the country. He said smaller art house cinemas across the country already are doing that with their film selections, and act as community centers for discourse.

“There are issues that have been raised and need to be discussed,” he said, ranging from allegations of the government denying facts to the concept of “alternative facts.” He also said there has been an increase of people “demonizing immigrants and foreigners” as a way to enforce conformity.

“We’re not advocating for any particular political view,” he said, but rather trying to stimulate discussion.

While the film screening might be seen as a protest against President Donald Trump, a member of the Maine Republican Party said the dialogue could be viewed as a discussion of the presidency of Barack Obama as well.

“Given the recent revelations regarding mass surveillance of Americans under the Obama administration, bringing awareness to the dangers of restricted speech and government overreach that ‘1984’ shows is long overdue,” said Ryan Lorrain, vice chairman of the Maine Republican Party and a Waterville native.

Skolnick said there wasn’t a campaign or big movement to get the movie screened across the country. Rather, they reached out broadly to people they knew to gauge interest. He said “1984” was picked because of how well the novel has sold recently. According to a January report from NPR, sales of Orwell’s dystopian novel increased almost 10,000 percent after Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

“The book has been a sudden best-seller since (the) election, it wasn’t some blinding stroke of genius on our part,” Skolnick said. So, based on the popularity of the book in recent months, he said it made sense to show the movie. One of the central themes of the movie is the government’s dispute of facts.

“That resonates with people. For the first time, they feel like any sort of fact is under attack,” he said.

The movie centers around the character Winston Smith, played by the late John Hurt, who lives under the constant surveillance by the government and works to rewrite history as they want it written, slowly begins to question that existence.

Railroad Square Cinema’s largest screening room can seat 150 people, Eisen said, so he imagines that will be the theater for the film. The screening will be done just once, April 4, a Tuesday, at 2:30 p.m. Eisen said it made more sense to do a one-off screening rather than keeping the film for a prolonged period of time.

While both Eisen and Skolnick both said screening the film was not taking an overtly political stance, they did say the film’s themes — which “transcend the specific time” — was something that could and does resonate with people.

“We’re hoping that (viewers) really start talking to their neighbors and discussing what’s going on in America and, whatever their views, are (become) politically engaged,” Skolnick said.

He spoke of a passiveness that was forced on the people by the government in the “1984” setting, which allows for the rise of dictatorships. “One of the great things in America is an engaged population,” he said. “That’s just as important now as it has ever been.”

Skolnick said this was the first kind of national cinema event they have organized, but they would open to doing something similar in the future. Eisen said that is one of the functions of a community theater like Railroad, to provide a place for this kind of discussion.

“It’s a good movie,” Eisen said. “It’s quite well done.”

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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