Comrades In Dreams

Comrades In Dreams


Reviewed by: Chris

As a boy, I would save my pocket money to go to Saturday matinees. They were mostly awful. But I'd look forward to them all week.

Cinema is about creating dreams. But what of the dream of cinema itself? Four individuals separated by oceans, deserts, cultures, by politics and personal circumstances. One dream - the magic of cinema. These four people want to bring cinema to the lives of others. They have a brimming-over passion for that goal. A commune in North Korea. A small community in the USA. A cinema tent bursting at the seams in India. And risking everything for a run-down, open air cinema in Africa.

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When I travel I love to watch movies. To experience how a community gets excited about the medium. Some strange art house in New York. A tiny theatre with hand-drawn curtains (a movie cost $2) on the outskirts of Seattle. A converted section of a supermarket in Bali. Magnificent old cinemas in Rio or Auckland. Yet filmmaker Uli Gaulke (who worked as a projectionist and once renovated a small abandoned cinema) goes further, building a monument to the days before the multiplexes. And to the lone warriors who still, in this day, choose their programme. Who fight for the tears and laughter of every single audience member, wooing people to the screen, so they too become comrades in dreams.

Comrades In Dreams tells of different dreams united by a common thread. In so doing, it shows the very dissimilar societies in which they are formed. Widely different expectations of audience members. And a vibrancy of cultures beyond our own - but united by a devotion. Getting heavy reels of film out of a van. Overcoming local obstacles. Rewarded not so much by financial success, but by the joy of sharing something dear to them. (The film could almost be called United In Celluloid.)

The passion of audiences provides a common theme. A movie on irrigation in North Korea that will change lives. An old Kim Basinger film in Africa that is enough to produce euphoria (we watch the face of a young boy light up as the idea of a moving picture, wound on sprockets and projected through a tiny hole, is explained to him.) Titanic leaves barely a dry eye in America, but is boring to people in central India who can't conceive of such an expanse of water, much less of a giant ship (They need local content tear-jerkers).

One of the intriguing things about Comrades In Dreams is the insights that go beyond existing demographics. Trade magazines can tell us what type of films do well in what countries. We can see box office figures. We see the result, but not the cause, the motivation behind people's desire to sit in a darkened area with comparative strangers watching images projected onto a screen. Comrades In Dreams tries to look from the roots up.

The positive side is the diverse, positive examples of real people involved. The emotional entry point from disparate cultures. We also learn much about everyday life in societies quite alien to the western world. But my western mind would still have liked some more statistically generalised insights, a larger interview sample, a drawing together of the material to show me different attitudes in different countries - even to Titanic. The film's strength is also its weakness. To show the protagonists' devotion to creating cinema we get involved in their love lives. Cinema always comes first. But having scratched the surface of different attitudes to cinema, this film left me wanting more.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2007
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A documentary about cinema lovers in far flung corners of the world.

Director: Uli Gaulke

Writer: Jeannette Eggert, Uli Gaulke

Year: 2006

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: Germany

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