Interview 15.05.16 . 09:00 AM
Update13.02.18 . 09:43 AM

The Cinema Travellers, portrait of a touring cinema in India

Film still of The Cinema Travellers

Film still of The Cinema Travellers © RR

Once a year, the travelling cinemas set out to cater to Indian villagers affected by the closure of traditional cinema halls. In The Cinema Travellers , directors Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya take us on a journey in the footsteps of those who keep the magic of cinema alive. Amit Madheshiya picked up the World Press Photo in 2011 and the World Photography Award in 2009 and 2011. Shirley Abraham is a documentary-maker for Britain's The Guardian and Al Jazeera English.

Can you tell us about the origins of the documentary?

It's been a long process. Back when we graduated, we witnessed the decline of many single-screen theatres in the cities. This saddened us and stoked our curiosity. It was in 2008 that an even stronger curiosity took hold of us. We went on a journey across India to explore the alternative ways of watching movies. We were interested in finding out more about those travelling cinemas and we realized there hadn’t been much research into it. Actually when we went to talk to scholars, they were astonished to find out these travelling cinemas even existed. In a way, we began this project because there was nothing out there on the subject. So the idea of the film was there from the beginning, it was instinctive but it took us a long time to actually make it. We waited until 2011 to begin shooting, partly because we needed to gather more information and find ways to make it happen. 


Now that you have made the documentary, can you tell us your views on the last touring cinemas? Do you think it can keep running?

They will definitely not continue in the forms we saw them. It was like a fairy-tale. What we saw was unlike anything we usually come across in daily life. Nevertheless, those travelling cinemas are part of certain religious fairs in India so it's also a kind of tradition to attend. But still, we're not betting on their survival; it’s really hard for those cinemas to keep going.


What are your views on the state of the film industry in your country?

Bollywood is huge, obviously. But despite that we think the documentary industry in India is very vibrant. There are many film directors willing to make documentaries – filmmakers of all kinds and from many cities, from the smallest to the biggest. The only drawback is that we lack the infrastructure and other structures to support those movies. So the documentary scene is mostly independent filmmaking and it’s very time consuming. For instance, the dilemma we faced was that we had to shoot half the year and raise funds for the other half. And that’s why some films take longer to be produced. The journeys are often long and difficult but we think these challenges are universal throughout this industry in particular.

Written by Eugénie Malinjod


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