District Cinema may sound like a movie theater, but it’s far more than just a place to watch films. A pop-up experience that features foreign independent films, District Cinema offers attendees the opportunity to engage with films dynamically and culturally.
The idea for District Cinema came to founder Patricia Nader while visiting Dubai with her family. While gallery hopping with her brother in the city’s arts district, she came across Cinema Akil’s chai diner. She and her brother initially went in for tea when Nader noticed the cinema in the back. Cinema Akil, which also began as a pop-up, is the only independent cinema in the Gulf region, meaning they are able to screen films that can’t otherwise be accessed in the area. Nader was struck by the fact that the space was not just a cinema; it was also a tea house, a restaurant, and most importantly, a gathering space for the community.
“I remember walking in there and saying to myself, I want to own something like this one day,” she shares.
A one-woman operation, District Cinema popped up for the first time this past May. Their first event took place at Lapis, Adams Morgan’s popular Afghan bistro, with a screening of Afghani animated documentary, “Flee.”
For Nader, who works in the hospitality industry, featuring regional food and drinks is of equal importance to the films she screens, as she wants attendees to fully immerse themselves in the culture they are exposed to in the films. At the “Flee” screening, viewers enjoyed cocktails and appetizers from Lapis followed by a Q and A with the film’s directors. A second screening was held at the Asian Fusion gallery and featured Syrian-Canadian film “Peace by Chocolate” as well as dishes provided by local Syrian food truck Syriasly Delicious.
District Cinema’s third screening will be the film “Olga,” which follows a young Ukrainian gymnast in exile in Switzerland during the 2014 Maidan revolution. The event will take place on August 25th at Planet Word and will feature a talkback with the CEO of United Help Ukraine, a grassroots organization providing aid to Ukraine, as well as an American University professor who specializes in the region. The screening will also feature Ukrainian beer provided by Immigrant food and sweet treats by Ukrainian-owned D-Light Cafe.
All District Cinema events have a charity component; Nader donates portions of the proceeds to various organizations that support regional causes. At the “Olga” screening, 80 percent of the proceeds will go to United Help Ukraine. Nader notices a disconnect at many philanthropic events in D.C., where the events themselves have little to do with the actual causes they are raising money for. With District Cinema, she wants to bridge that gap by having attendees directly engage with the cause and culture their tickets are supporting.
As for the future, Nader has plans to keep District Cinema evolving. She has an art-related collaboration in the works with Homme Gallery and plans to run events that feature more hands-on activities like cooking classes.
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