Film Review: The Cinema Travellers

For those who love film, Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s documentary, The Cinema Travellers, will find a special place in your heart.

Through the lives of three men, who are bound by celluloid, the beauty of film, and its projection, we are provided an intimate, fly on the wall look at travelling cinemas in the rural parts of India’s Maharashtra state. There is the shrewd businessman, exhibiting films at many of India’s religious festivals, the charitable showman who screens films for the local children of his village and a kindly, old projectionists’ repairman, whose eyes twinkle when he speaks about the machines he has dedicated a life to preserving.

What Abraham and Madheshiya have managed so successfully is to capture the universal, all-consuming beauty of film and the ways in which it is enjoyed by different cultures. Fantastically shot by Madheshiya, we get a first-hand look at films being played in black out tents to packed out audiences who jostle, eat, and talk throughout. We see the deep affection and tenderness the showman hold for their equipment. The projectors – shot in close up – the thin swirls of smoke caught in the shafts of light from the machines’ lamps giving them a magical, ethereal quality.

It is tragic when the reality that this medium is being undercut by the advent of new technologies that are cheaper, smaller and provide greater access to a library of modern films snakes its way into the narrative, with one showman having to go digital, scrapping his projector for parts.

This loving portrait of film speaks to the changing landscape of cinema whilst celebrating its heritage and it’s a joy to look up wide-eyed, mouth aghast at the flickering images, and the slowly dying technology projecting them onto makeshift silver screens.

The Cinema Travellers plays at the Bertha DocHouse from January 26th, click here for details.

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