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In my novel The Shaman of Seville, which is set in the Cannes Film Festival, a director points out that a person only sees what is in their head. Recently, I was part of a group of Lumière ambassadors who had the honour of being guided around the new Lumière Cinema, currently being built in the former boiler house of the Sphinx factories at the Bassin. Suddenly there was another Lumière in my head, and I’m sure that I will never see film in the same way again.

Philosophy teaches us how the contents of our brains determine how we look at the world. Film allows us to experience strange and familiar worlds in new, healthy, shocking, world-changing, bewildering, emotive, entertaining, and critical ways. Film can also be a hot or cold bath that helps us live our life in richer, more humane or evolved ways. It is not an anaesthetic (like many films made for TV – but that aside); it is a positive stimulant, affecting us in a way like no other medium can.

In this light, it is a relief that the Lumière Cinema in Maastricht will grow its activities in distinctive surroundings. The move – scheduled for the second half of 2016 – met with some initial resistance: ‘Don’t you already have a beautiful place in the city?’ However, relocation creates opportunities for new scenarios; not just because of the inclusion of a restaurant and the number of seats will practically double, but because the new setting creates new possibilities for a unique voice in film land.

In the same way that the Belvédère adds something that is missing from Maastricht, Lumière will add something to its film culture that doesn’t yet exist. As such, it is a necessary and favourable addition to Maastricht, the Euroregion, and the film world.

David Deprez and Nico Haenen, Lumière’s joint directors, powerfully explained that their approach to the cinema is more than about creating a passive occurrence between screen and viewer; it is also about making a good selection for a mixed audience of film lovers. It is about having the guts to resist superficiality and commercialisation. It is to accept the Netflix phenomenon because you know the Bassin can provide an experience that is offered nowhere else. It is the courage to acknowledge that although Maastricht is five years behind film theatres in other major cities, Lumière can catch up in its new monumental surroundings. It is also the challenge of putting something exceptional opposite a new Pathé cinema.

From this perspective, this construction project is more than a complex renovation and transformation. It is a place where the art of film is celebrated and shared in all of its dimensions. It is as if cinema in Maastricht is being reinvented. Would the Lumière’s founders have had this in mind forty years ago?

The first meeting of ambassadors was a heart-warming gathering. Together with producers and other film representatives, a beautiful delegation of Maastricht’s cultural cognoscenti was guided through the theatre of the future. Even without any films, there was a thirst for more. Just imagine how it will be once the lights are dimmed.

By Govert Derix

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