Cinema Akil, the first art house cinema in the Gulf, at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

After three years as a travelling nomadic independent cinema platform Cinema Akil opened its doors at Alserkal Avenue in September 2018 making it the first art house cinema in the Gulf.

We have spent the past year and a half telling the tales of what we had set out to achieve in Dubai: a sanctuary for stories and filmlovers under one creaky roof. Follow us into the dark, we say. Take shelter, we say. When the isolation of a consumption-drenched life brings you down, when you seek the closeness of strangers and the respite of shared darkness, we opened our doors wide for you to come as you are.

Through the magic of the moving image and all its languages, we invited the UAE community to come together; closely. Sit together, laugh together, talk to each other, travel together, fall in love with one another, see each other, empathise and grow with one another. Closer and closer; one film at a time.

Today, it is precisely for this togetherness that we shutter our doors as a pre-emptive preventive measure to protect our community by taking action in line with our words.

Effective immediately until the end of the month, Cinema Akil goes on intermission to practice what we preach and apply social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in our community.

Closer apart

Art house cinemas are sanctuaries; for stories and strangers, sharing a dance of light and shadows. That is their beauty but therein lies their predicament.

Community-centricity in a high volume, high traffic place of congregation means that in times like this we must act swiftly in the best interest of the community, even if that means keeping them apart.

COVID-19 is a fast-moving, lawless, disease that knows no bounds and our knowledge of it is changing by the hour.

It has spread to 114 countries and killed more than 5,000 people is now officially a pandemic according to the World Health Organisation.

It is a time of rampant uncertainty, there are a lot of unknowns and we don’t have the answers. Only ourselves with our spaces, presented with a choice.

To play a role early on to protect the well-being of our communities, teams and families during this time: for we have always been a sum of a whole.

Social distancing is one way to do that. It is a proven preventive measure towards slowing down the spread of a contagious disease by reducing social interaction. As a public space of togetherness and gathering, we have decided to cancel our screenings and close our doors with the goal of preemptively containing the spread of the virus.

We believe it is our role in these times to encourage social distancing by taking such measures and keeping our audiences apart.

Let’s calmly collectively do our parts.

Through the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Community-building is rooted on a bedrock of trust; a trust that shares your success and lifts you higher and a trust that you will do the right thing when the going gets tough.

For small margin cultural enterprises and small businesses, economic strain is felt immediately and aggressively.

But hard times call for hard decisions; taking a bet on collective care and social awareness for the common good.

As decision-makers, endowed with a community’s trust, it is our duty to be steadfast and uncompromising when it comes to the welfare of that community. Community-centricity is just that: being there for the good times and the bad.

A time for self-reflection

In the act of social distancing lies the opportunity for self-reflexiveness and for people-led spaces to stand by those communities, resolutely without delay.

Tonight, as our screen goes dark and are curtains are drawn, we know our community is safer; together apart.

Let’s do what must be done to get through this: for the love of film and the true love of community.

— Butheina Hamed Kazim is the founder and managing director of Cinema Akil.