Posted March 14, 2017
By HANYA ALKHAMIS
The history of the United States has been marked by racial discrimination. Until the 19th century, slavery was a means for discriminating against, and dehumanizing, African Americans.
Following the American Civil War, slavery was effectively abolished, but discrimination and inequality remained, taking different forms and even justified by the separate-but-equal doctrine.
Captivated by the history of racial discrimination and the Civil Rights movement, particularly during the second half, viewers were drawn to the O Cinema in Miami upon learning it was showing “I Am Not Your Negro,” a documentary film that explores the history of racism through the lives and deeds of major Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
Attending the O Cinema was a highly meaningful experience.
“Not only was it possible to view the desired film and attain a more complete perspective and understanding of what race relations were like in the mid-20th century, but also to recognize the importance of cinema in preserving the country’s history and reproducing it for future generations,” Melissa Gomez, manager of O Cinema Wynwood, stated.
As one enters the O Cinema in Wynwood Arts District, he or she would seem curious about its history. The building revealed that it’s business was limited to screening independent films and others that were somehow considered to be artistically, socially, or historically relevant.
In other words, O Cinema is a selective theater, and this only further stimulated my curiosity.
Gomez assisted customers as they made their way to the screening of the movie. She made sure guests get their refreshments and popcorn so that guests would not miss the start of the film.
“The theater was not constructed, nor was it established by any one person. It was never intended to be a for-profit business,” Gomez stated. “The O Cinema was conceived by a group of visionaries with a great appreciation for the fine arts, especially film.The founders of O Cinema had a shared vision that involved establishing a cutting-edge, non-profit, and independent cinema.”
This is clearly conveyed through the philosophical principles that guide the O Cinema’s mission:
- First, O Cinema intends to provide intriguing and entertainment high-quality films that would otherwise not reach the residents of Miami-Dade County.
- Second, O Cinema will ensure that prices are accessible to the widest possible audience.
- Third, O Cinema intends to transform the local community by promoting and creating culture through the screening of meaningful films.
This project fully materialized in 2011 when an empty theater was retrofitted and opened as the first O Cinema in Miami-Dade County.
Located in the heart of the Wynwood Arts District near downtown Miami and focusing primarily on screening independent films, O Cinema attempts to be a true promoter of the fine arts in general and film in particular. Following this line of thought, it should be noted that O Cinema is not limited to screening films.
The theater is also actively engaged in the community, organizing a wide array of events that seek to create awareness about artistic expression and also inspire reflections (and critical thinking) about relevant topics for contemporary society.
During my visit, I was able to learn about the Film Gate event, which was organized by O Cinema and intended to raise awareness about the value and significance of the film industry.
Karmel Sabri, a student at the University of Michigan, was part of the Film Gate community. As she was working at the theater, she participated in numerous community events that took place in the O Cinema.
“It was such a privilege to work for a great organization,” she said. “It was pretty cool to actually be a coordinator for this event here in the O Cinema. I feel like the O Cinema can be something huge, If only more people know about this place, but marketing is lacking here.”