From the Hollywood blockbuster to the high-brow film noir, the silver screen offers a few hours’ peace in a darkened refuge from the mundane grind of the nine to five. But Ukraine’s filmgoers have begun seeking literal shelter in subterranean screenings offering protection from the ever-present threat of missiles from above. After Russia’s invasion in February shuttered picture houses nationwide and production ground to a halt, the country’s resilient film industry is making a tentative comeback. KINO42, in downtown Kyiv, is among around 20 of the city’s 50 or so cinemas that have reopened in recent weeks. As the capital’s only underground cinema, it is a unique offering for movie buffs wary of air raids.
The screen — which has 42 seats around four metres (13 feet) below street level — reopened in June, its program of upcoming screenings displayed on a backlit board above the newly added words “cinema shelter". “It’s a literal cinema shelter since it’s located in a basement," Ilko Gladshtein, a partner in the business, told AFP at the recent launch of its program of Ukrainian classics. “It’s a literal cinema shelter since it’s located in a basement," Ilko Gladshtein, a partner in the business, told AFP at the recent launch of its program of Ukrainian classics.
“KINO42 is the safest cinema in Kyiv right now. We don’t interrupt screenings during air raids," he told AFP. Stanislav Bitiutskiy, a 38-year-old researcher at the Dovzhenko Centre, says every social or political cataclysm forces a nationwide reckoning over Ukrainian identity. Attendance drops every time a Russian missile slams into a civilian area. “The human psyche is quite resilient though," says Antypova. “In a few days, attendance recovers — until the next strike."