India, 2016, 96 min
Showmen riding cinema lorries have brought the wonder of the movies to faraway villages in India once every year. Seven decades on, as their cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their patrons are lured by slick digital technology. A benevolent showman, a shrewd exhibitor and a maverick projector mechanic bear a beautiful burden - to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.
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Shirley came to love the movies because she was prohibited to watch them. There used to be a movie on television on Saturday night but the children were bundled into bed for the Sunday church service. She was scared to be on the wrong side of angels when they separated the wicked from the just on Judgement Day. The first film she saw happened to be ‘The Angel’. She was watchful, covering the television screen with a dark cloth and peeping in, so the escaping light wouldn’t betray her. The film showed her the benign side of the angles that the Bible had warned her against.
One winter night, Amit sneaked out of his grandparent’s home in the village. They were screening a movie in the school’s courtyard to celebrate a wedding. He crawled inside the white wedding tent to find his friends, plumes of smoke, and a huge screen lit with images. In the morning, Amit’s grandmother found him sleeping, wrapped in the lose flaps of the tent. She pulled him out of the swathes of canvas and touched his forehead for signs of fever. He was fine and was punished for his indiscretion. All afternoon, Amit worked on compost being prepared to plant mango saplings. Since then, Amit has found the musty smell of the compost indelibly intertwined with his first memories of cinema, rooted deep in his grandmother’s mango orchard.
Golden Eye - Special Mention – Cannes 2016. DocEdge Award - Documentary Edge Festival 2017. CPH:DOX 2017. TIFF Toronto 2017. Sydney FF 2016. New York FF 2016.
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