The Indian filmmaker declares his love for cinema in The last movie, which is also a celebration of innocence and the pursuit of big dreams and a cry for help for cinema. The film won the Golden Spike in Valladolid.
A train approaches the spectators, it is a black and white image that turns into color and it is the first tribute —Arrival of the train at La Ciotat stationof the Lumiere brothers—of the many who appear in The last movie, by Indian filmmaker Pan Nalin. Golden Spike at the Valladolid Semincithe film is a declaration of love for cinema, a celebration of innocence and the pursuit of big dreams, and a cry for help for cinema.
Inspired by the filmmaker’s own childhood, it is the story of Samay, a nine-year-old boy from a remote village, who discovers cinema and is fascinated by it. Against his father’s wishes, he sneaks out every day to go to the movies, where he befriends the projectionist who lets him watch movies in exchange for food. Samay realizes that “stories turn into light, light into movies and movies into dreams” and embark your whole gang on the adventure of capturing the light. Pan Nalin spoke with Público during his stay in Valladolid.
This film is a tribute to cinema, why have you made it now?
Cinema is an immersion, an experience of special power, a very intense experience that has been stolen from our hands. When I made the film, I had a wonderful memory of when I went to the cinemas, I was building an expectation, I looked at the rest of the public, the light went out… We live in a strange time for someone who grew up loving cinema, who now it is being reduced to mere content and commercial product. It is very sad. Today the content is the king and the cinema is now nothing more than his buddy.
Is cinema today in danger of disappearing?
Cinema is not going away, but the boundaries between narrative media are shrinking. Video games, platforms, cinemas… How are we going to end up? In a world where we all play the same video games? In any case, the interactive world can also be expanded, but I fear that cinema will remain for the elites or a minority audience.
It shows the magic of cinema beyond the stories that are told in it. Isn’t that a way of saying there’s something wrong?
They are not lies, but part of the artifice is a great deception, that is the context of the cinema. The essence of every movie is a lie, those who kill are not really killed, blood is not blood, nor is love, nor is it tears. We filmmakers make the stories, but the synthesis of that circle generates intense emotions that move us and we think that life is like that. That’s why we believe the stories. We also have today an enormous technical level that can make us believe anything. When we like something, we admire the truth it contains.
Is the story based on your own childhood?
Yes, most of the things I really experienced as a child, I have also shot where I grew up and with my family’s props. Everything was thought of, as a child life was simpler and the instrument of cinema was also simpler. And, of course, the discovery of light and cinema was simple and naive for me. I wanted to return to that beauty and to what I consider organic of those experiences. My life is governed by five words that start with “f”: family, friends, future, food and films (family, friends, future, food and movies).
Speaking of food, there are many foods in the film.
Because food is a very important part of our lives and in this part of the country it is special, it is not exported food, it is 100% vegetarian food, all families have enormous cooks. When making the film, I called my sister who knows all of my mother’s recipes. Women and men spend a lot of time preparing meals. It is a form of respect to offer someone food, a show of affection.
In the film is not also a metaphor?
Yes, because everything is applied to culture. food is a metaphor of what the spices we use do and what it has to do with the different tastes in the cinema. The ingredients to create a level of flavor, good movies or movies fast food.
Do the latter harm the art of cinema?
Yes, because popular movies disappoint more and more. Why aren’t higher quality things released? The cinema is going through a bad time. Attendance at theaters has fallen and tickets are becoming more expensive in the cities. That millions of dollars are generated is an illusion. In India it is impossible to know how many people have seen a movie, there is no control over it, and a ticket in a village costs 10 cents and in Delhi, 30 dollars. Spectators spend more money on popcorn.
In India, has religion greatly affected cinema?
When I was little religion believed that cinema was immoral, that it had no values, that’s why my father didn’t like the movies, he said that it had too much violence, alcohol and crimes and offenses and that it wasn’t a good influence, that it was an immoral activity. For years, families did not let their children go to the movies and, of course, everyone thought that if someone wanted to be an actress, she had previously been a prostitute. And it is a thought rooted in India. In the 90s, with the Bollywood boom, nobody wanted their daughter to be an actress. The situation changed around 2005 with the Internet and a different education. That cinema can be art is a new concept in India.
Is it only considered industry?
That’s right, it has no artistic status, only industrial. Every time a movie is made, 30% is taxed to the government.
And how did you produce this film?
I have produced it with my friends and a co-production with France. To produce it I sold my house and lived in the office. It is also a way of showing that I believe in my project. Then a young producer appeared who loves cinema, he has money and invests it in cinema. The team members form a cooperative. And we have been lucky despite everything and we are writing the history of cinema in India for the first time.
The film opens now in Spain, where else?
Japan, USA, France… In many parts of the world there is a real interest in the film, which shows that the story is universal. This is a milestone for Indian cinema and now I see in my film the logo of the distributors that fascinates me. I lived the whole process with absolute amazement and happiness in the Cannes market.
How did you find the child protagonist?
To find the kid who is the protagonist of the film, I went to villages where the children have had very few screening experiences, so their relationship with what they would see would be more intense. They have mobile phones, television… But the real cinema is a real event for them.
Could it be said that it is a film about the adventure of light?
The world is going through terrible times, a time we have never seen. I want the viewer to take away some light. As a storyteller, I want to share feelings of hope and fresh air. I want to celebrate the beauty of our planet and show how much simpler our lives used to be.