Directed by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya, The Cinema Travellers premiered in the Cinema section at Cannes Classics this year and won the Special Jury Mention for L’Œil d’or (The Golden Eye). Cinema Travellers is about the nomadic cinemas of India, Maharashtra to be precise. It is about the surreal, kaleidoscopic world of movie-going in India’s villages that we have a vague idea about but don’t know still exists. It came as a surprise for Abraham herself when she first saw the travelling tent cinemas. “It is during the time when single screen theatres started shutting down in the cities that we got interested in seeing how people in villages are watching movies,” she recalls. Expecting one-off instances of such shows, what sucked the filmmakers into exploring it is the discovery that travelling cinemas are a 70-year-old tradition, an organised industry that has been quietly thriving on the margins of Indian cinema.
The documentary, a tribute to India’s mobile tent theatres, will be screened at the Sydney Festival on June 15 and June 18. The 12-day fest will open today. Other eight film selected from Cannes for screening at the festival are The Handmaiden, Hissein Habre: A Chadian Tragedy, One-Eyed Jacks, Paterson, Personal Shopper, The Red Turtle, Toni Erdmann, The Beast.