Prakash Travelling Cinema

Part one

Prakash Travelling Cinema is a delightful short film, posted on YouTube by the filmmaker, Megha B. Lakhani. She made the 14-minute film while at the National Institute of Design, India, and it has gone on to win festival awards.

The film documents two friends who maintain a travelling bioscope show on the streets of Ahmedabad. The ramshackle outfit, which they take around on a hand-cart, comprises a genuine c.1910 Pathé projector, adapted for sound, with peep-holes all around the mobile ‘cinema’ itself (which they call their ‘lorry’), through which children watch snippets plucked from popular Bollywood titles. One of the amazing sights of the film is either of the two men hand-cranking their sound projector at exhausting speed.

Part two

Although they are not showing silent films, the whole enterprise is imbued with the spirit of the original travelling bioscope operators of India, and of course the technology hails from the silent period. The word ‘bioscope’ still persists in places in India for cinema, as it does in South Africa. However, the film wants to do more than show a quaint operation, and it is very much about friendship, conviction, Indian society, and the persistence of a human way of doing things in the face of modern media technologies.

There are an estimated 2,000 mobile cinema shows in India today, and the travelling bioscope has been made the subject of other recent films. There is Andrej Fidyk’s 1998 documentary film Battu’s Bioscope, on a modern travelling show in rural India; Vrinda Kapoor and Nitesh Bhatia’s short film Baarah Mann Ki Dhoban (2007), on modern bioscope workers whch also touches on the history of India film exhibition; and Tim Sternberg’s film Salim Baba (2007), again about a modern travelling bioscope show, this time with an adapted 1897 Bioscope. Plus there’s Tabish Khair’s acclaimed novel Filming, published this year, which moves from a travelling bioscope show in 1929 to the Bombay cinema of the 1940s as a means to examine the rise of modern India. Clearly there’s a metaphor in the air.

Prakash Travelling Cinema was made in 2006, and there’s a full set of credits here. The film is in Hindi, with English subtitles, and on YouTube, owing to its length, it comes in two parts.

And there’s Cinecon too

The Patent Leather Kid

The Patent Leather Kid (1927)

There are so many festivals coming up, it hard to keep track of them all. I should have told you about Cinecon before now. This major event in the silent/early souns film calendar takes place in Hollywood 30 August-3 September. As the festival blurb says:

Cinecon is a five day celebration of the movies, screening nearly thirty rare silent and early sound feature films and as many short subjects from the nation’s leading film archives and Hollywood studio vaults, and is dedicated to showcasing unusual films that are rarely given public screenings. Celebrity guests will attend a screening of one of their films and participate in question and answer sessions following the film. You can buy great movie memorabilia in our six fabulous dealers’ rooms and the Cinecon Career Achievement Award celebrity banquet takes place on Sunday evening.

Silent films featuring at this year’s Cinecon include Colleen Moore in Her Wild Oat (1927), William S. Hart in Branding Broadway (1918), Richard Barthelmess in The Patent Leather Kid (1927), Henry King in The Devil’s Bait (1915), and Man, Woman and Wife (1929), a rare Universal late silent with added Movietone score.


More from Scandanavia. Mykkäelokuvafestivaalit, or the Forssa Silent Film Festival, takes place in Forssa, Finland, over 31 August-1 September. The silent film festival is now in its eighth year, and this year focusses on the French silent film. Featured screenings include Abel Gance’s Au Secours! (1924) and La Dixième Symphonie (1918), Jean Renoir’s Le Tournoi dans la Cité (1928), Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed (1924), and Chaplin’s The Pawnshop (1916) and The Immigrant (1917). Finnish films featured are Teuvo Puro’s Vaihdokas (1927) and Jaakko Korhonen’s Aatamin Puvussa ja vähän Eevankin (1931), the first Finnish sound film. And a ‘surprise’ archive film is also promised, a nine-part Western serial. The festival site is mostly in Finnish, but has a summary page in English.

Damfinos convention

The Three Ages

The Three Ages (1923), from

The 13th Annual Damfino Convention takes place in Muskegon, Michigan, 5-6 October. This the annual convention of the International Buster Keaton Society. Promised attractions include a baseball game on the field where Buster played as a child, a ‘Know Your Keaton’ trivia quiz, a Keaton memorabilia auction, scholarly presentations, and a costume party. Among the screenings is a rare showing of The Three Ages (1922), Keaton’s first feature film, which co-starred Margaret Leahy, winner of a British ‘find-a-film-star’ competition, whose poignant story I tell in an essay available on the Damfinos website (you’ll find it in the Articles section).