Six retirees, recalling their delight in outdoor movies, bring free films to remote villages.
About a generation ago, this was how most Chinese watched movies: under
the stars, and mostly for free. Now a group of six retired men is trying to revive this Maoist-era tradition. Strapping an old projector and rusty cases of film reels on the back of a motorbike, they’ve been traveling rugged country roads to bring the magic of cinema to remote villages untouched by the marvels of the big screen….
This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Chinese cinema. In 1905, the story goes, China’s first homemade silent movie was born in a Beijing photo studio. By the 1930s, the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai had become known as China’s Hollywood….
But it was communism that gave Chinese motion pictures a new purpose. The Communist Party relied on films to deliver mass entertainment as well as political propaganda. Film brigades became part of the landscape….
Now that China has switched to a bustling market economy, even in the countryside people can watch grainy television soap operas and pop in a pirated DVD for less than a dollar. Many old cinemas have shuttered their doors. Outdoor theaters are practically unheard of….
“China has 900 million peasants, and they need spiritual nourishment,” said Rao Changdong, 62, one of the founders of the movie caravan, whose volunteers fund the project almost entirely out of their own pockets. “VCDs and DVDs are fine, but they are limited to the small family and small screen. Movies are better because it’s more about community interaction and the big family.”…