The underground film theater tour: Kriterion

The underground film theater tour: Kriterion

Apr 23, 2012 |  by  |  Art, Spots
About the author
Hi! My name is Faye and I will be your guide through Amsterdam for the day! Enjoys randomness chat, good banter and will help you find the best dealers in fun, food and adventure.

The average Joe enjoys kicking back at the movies in a comfy chair. That experience is enhanced in film theatres that have withstood the test of time and have a story to tell. Away I say! To the high-tech commercial factories with overpriced rubber popcorn and ‘plopping’ beer. A social movement needs to arise from the ashes and stop these commercial beasts from ruining the art and experience of film. Me and my companion Rutger Houweling visit the 13 film theaters of Cineville and set out on a journey into the underground film scene to bring you historic tales of woe, adventure and happy endings.

Episode 1: Kriterion

We start our journey with a visit to Kriterion. We received a guided tour from the enthusiastic Frank Groot, only twenty-two and one of the two programmers at Kriterion. He wholeheartedly enlightens us on the history of the cinema and the important role students have played in it. After the war, a group of students (who served in the resistance during the war) started an establishment (S.O.S.S Kriterion). The film theatre was initially a craft shop for Jews, but when the Second World War started the Nazi’s kicked them out. Members of the National Socialist Movement (friends of the Jerries) moved in instead. Until the 1st of June 1945 when the war ended and students decided to use the building for their own project, which they have now done for the past 65 years.

There is no hierarchy system at Kriterion.

The objective of the establishment was to make students able to work and pay for their own tuition. Over time policies have changed and the Dutch government introduced student subsidies (lets see how much long that will stay with the current crisis). But the democratic student system at kriterion remains. There is no hierarchy at Kriterion. All decisions from choice in cookies to reconstructions of the building have to pass a vote. For example, the decision to add a third film screen to the cinema was voted for in a democratic way. Kriterion then devoted a chair (with a nametag) to each person who helped finance and build the third screen.

While walking around the building, it becomes apparent that this is not your regular cinema. I feel like I am walking through a dorm where occasional books and attributes are scattered around. First time visitor will not notice this, but the regular customer will recognize the randomness of the interior and forgotten things hidden away in a corner. A peek behind the scenes shows the organized chaos and fun with which these students work together. Kriterion tries to distinguish itself from other film theatres in Amsterdam by offering a more daring and edgy film program. Frank says: “we like to take a risk, and show more bold films than other theaters.” Kriterion also enjoys working with outside parties who have a love for film. During our visit, the 28th edition of the Imagine film festival is situated in the film theatre. Next to outsiders hosting events in Kriterion, theme nights are also a favourite. Frank explains: “The Manathon was a great success! A film marathon with a masculine themed programme, filled with films like Rambo, the Expendables and Rocky.”

Where: Roetersstraat 170

Photography by Rutger Houweling

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