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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Original Copy
"There's relatively little to mitigate the downcast moments, but Rehman's passion for his work and the vast amount he has learned along the way come through clearly."

It was the 7th of January 1896 when cinema first arrived in Mumbai. A screening of short films in the Watson hotel wowed an elite audience. It was a brief encounter but a formative one. Within three decades the city would be selling more cinema tickets than anywhere else on Earth; within a century it would be home to the world's most prolific film industry. Despite Hollywood's cultural dominance elsewhere, it would do everything in its own distinct way - and that included its posters.

Sheikh Rehman learned the art of painting posters from his father, despite being warned that it would be better for him to pick a different career so that they could still make a living if the industry changed. He was determined to pursue his dream. Now, however, posters are being printed on plastic and distributed by studios. Rehman's is the last poster painting business in the city. it is on the verge of bankruptcy.

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Georg Heinzen and Florian Heinzen-Zio's documentary takes the time get to know Rehman and his business during the painting of a new work - a copy of sorts, based on studio photos of the stars in an upcoming film, with explosions, guns and helicopters added to make it more exciting. Rehman shows us examples of his father's work and explains how he developed his own style, using less lifelike colours to make the images more dramatic. He explains the importance of positioning characters correctly and making each one the appropriate size, explains how a poster can tell a story and how it can make all the difference to ticket sales. Although Bollywood turns over £2bn a year, those in the cinema business re living hand to mouth. Rehman speaks wistfully of how much more he might be making in a different job, and, with regret, of how it feels to be supported by his children. Such is the price of dreams.

There's relatively little to mitigate these downcast moments, at least in the foreground, but Rehman's passion for his work and the vast amount he has learned along the way come through clearly. Every now and again, a glimpse of a crowded auditorium reminds us what the dreams offered by cinema are worth to other people. It's hard to see what Rehman does as mere imitation; he has been a vital part of the dream-making industry, contributing his own creative talents. The eventual fate of the poster we see him working on is heartbreaking, his sanguinity a tribute to all cinema's little people. There's no Hollywood ending to this keenly observational work, but in true Bollywood style, Rehman has more than done his duty.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2017
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A documentary tribute to the dying art of Indian cinema posters, with each cinema once employing a dedicated artist to paint a massive original mural for that week’s Bollywood blockbuster.

Director: Georg Heinzen, Florian Heinzen-Ziob

Year: 2015

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Germany


Glasgow 2017

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