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Kino time

Sinema Transtopia: Big plans for Berlin’s youngest cinema

Berlin has a new Kino. Sinema Transtopia wants to change which films get watched – and how.

Photo: Sinema Transtopia / Marvin Girbig

Nestled in the courtyard of an 1870s industrial complex in Wedding, one Sinema (Turkish for, you guessed it, “cinema”) defies the post-corona gloom that has led three Berlin cinemas to shutter over the last two years. The city’s 68th Kino is not just new but different: Sinema Transtopia is setting out to show films that otherwise wouldn’t see the big screen.

The Kino is a deeply old school Altberliner space: nostalgically-priced beer and cocktails will be for sale in the adjacent foyer

On January 14, artistic directors Malve Lippmann and Can Sungu launched Sinema Transtopia to an audience of multinational film enthusiasts, in-house curators and filmmakers in a family-friendly atmosphere; their teen daughter helps behind the ticket counter. The duo call their brand new cinema a “restart”: their origins lie in bi’bak, a non-profit organisation they co-founded in 2014 in a small project space in Wedding’s Soldiner Kiez.

In 2020, Lippmann and Sungu, launched the beta version of Transtopia at Alexanderplatz’s Haus der Statistik, with an eclectic programming that ranged from pre-1979 Iranian cinema to FLINTA directors from East and Southeast Asia. The project garnered attention from Berliners eager to watch and discuss films largely overlooked by the global distribution machine. When their temporary lease expired, the pair found a new home in Haus C of the Wedding industrial complex already housing Callie’s art residency and the affiliated a.p. bookshop.

All this for Berlin’s cheapest cinema ticket: €6.

They renovated the echoey concrete space into a movie theatre with 78 vintage jump seats, a 6-metre-wide screen, and a projection room fitted to screen just about every film format – including 16mm and 35mm. The resulting Kino is a deeply old school Altberliner space: nostalgically-priced beer and cocktails will be for sale at a bar in the adjacent foyer, redolent of back in the day, when parties happened in backyards and makeshift locations.

Photo: Marvin Girbig

Funding from the Berlin Senate and an impressive number of public sponsors should foot the bill for the next five years. For Lippmann, public funding is the only way to preserve real diversity at the Kino, a belief rooted in her commitment to cinema as a societal art form, accessible to all and eminently capable of defying the mainstream film canon and its Western agenda. A clue or two as to what kind of cinema Transtopia has in stock: the slate covers everything from newly acclaimed BIPOC arthouse like Saint Omer to 1990s films from Africa (Cameroonian Jean-Pierre Bekolo was there for the opening of his film, Le Complot D’Aristote, or ‘Aristotle’s Plot’ in January), to a discussion of the 1990s Kazakh New Wave film Igla led by the renowned collective Slav and Tatars.

In February, expect a selection of “too rarely seen” films on postcolonial racism in 1970s-1980s France; in March a reflection on immigrant filmmaking in Sweden and West Germany during those two same decades through a series of experimental films from India and China. All this for Berlin’s cheapest cinema ticket: €6.

Lippmann and Sungu call Sinema Transtopia an “experiment”: only time – and perhaps future Senate funding decisions – will tell if their optimism and vision are enough to shift the roster of films screened in Berlin. For now, let’s sit back in those strapontin seats and enjoy the show.

  • Sinema Transtopia Lindower Str. 20. All films start at 20:00, with English subtitles. Visit their website here.