The 7th edition of the South Asian Film Festival of Montreal kicked off last week and will continue thiw weekend. The event, which takes place over two weekends, features engaging films that highlight cinematographic works from South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The opening film was the documentary Cinema Travellers directed by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya. It was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 in the Golden Camera category. This film is about the last cinema trucks that travel to India in the villages, and it is a beautiful nostalgic film about the beauty that cinema brings to those who marvel at the images.
We meet Mohamed and Bapu, who travel to remote villages and fairs with their trucks and movie projectors. What’s fun to point out is that men use incense over reels like a ritual. Parts can break during projection and they hope that everything will go smoothly. They will understand later – we are sorry to see it – that their projectors are obsolete. Bapu traveled to the villages for his people, but they don’t come anymore. He continues this job for children who promote films with a microphone. The techniques change and the public too. People now have televisions and they are less likely to come to movies.
Then there is Prakash, the endearing dreamer and inventor whose name means “light”. He hopes his cinematographic projectors will revolutionize the world of cinema. He shows a projector that he has designed himself having learned from manufacturing defects. He has been repairing projectors for over thirty years. I really liked hearing this old man tell the story of how cinema found him. The images have always fascinated him and they have never ceased to amaze him. There is a bitter scene where Prakash finds that the water has damaged his reels. The images are gone and he wonders where they can be. All that remains is the material, the reels, but the images that are like a witness no longer exist. The inventor will also be aware of the digital turning point that has begun. He invents other machines in the hope that will change the world.
If Bapu encounters some difficulties during his transition to digital, Mohamed is happy, because this is a good thing for his business. He sells his projector which will be dismantled piece by piece. This is what Cinema Travellers deals with; the brutal passage from old machines to the digital world. Through this passage, the wonder remains the same. Pictures and stories fascinate. At the beginning of the documentary, photographs of faces enchanted by the images that parade before their eyes are presented. Other photographs are also shown at the end of the film and the same fascination transforms the faces. Despite the time that passes, the magic is intact. Cinema Travellers is an authentic film about the facets of the passage of time and its effect that is not always devastating.
The 7th edition of the South Asian Film Festival of Montreal runs from November 3rd to 5th for its second weekend. For the full program, visit its website.