It’s easy to take for granted how readily available films are nowadays. My city, for example, has four multiplexes and two independent cinemas. Then there’s special events and local cinema clubs/societies. Not to mention the ease of streaming movies in your own home. We’re fortunate in the UK. Even the more remote places aren’t too far from a cinema. Other countries aren’t so lucky. In India, for example, there’s still a reliance on travelling cinema in poor rural areas.
Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s Cannes award-winning documentary, The Cinema Travellers, focuses on the people who make this happen. Showmen and their cinema lorries have brought joy and magic to remote Indian villages for over seventy years, but times change and they’re now an endangered species. Shot over five years, the film follows three men (an enterprising businessman, a benevolent exhibitioner and an elderly projector repairman) as they struggle to keep the industry running and their livelihoods going.
The Cinema Travellers is a touching and emotive film about the death of an industry which has brought so much joy. The day of rusty vans and old projectors has all but ended, with the digital revolution bringing entertainment to the small screen. It’s adapt or die. Abraham and Madheshiya’s shoot in such a naturalistic way that it’s easy to forget that the camera is there. It’s a perfect tribute to these showmen and raconteurs. A reminder of how fortunate we are, but also a slightly sad portrait of the decline of this traditional travelling cinemas.
The Cinema Travellers is screening at Bertha DocHouse from 26 January.