2007 SUNDANCE WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION FEATURE! Unity through cinema; film may change at different places in the world but the love for film is the same. In a day and age where the box office is declining and the download age is upon us, it is great to see that there are still people out there that have such a great love for film.
“Comrades in Dreams” is the story of four completely different theater owners from all over the world, a story of independent people who do what they can to show films in some very odd places. There’s an Indian man who travels all over India in a caravan, stopping in places to set-up his cinema tent in an almost circus fashion. Next is a Northern Korean woman who runs a theater that plays semi-propaganda films and live music. Penny is a spinster who runs a single screen theater in the southern part of U.S.A called “The Flick”. Last we have three friends from Burkina Faso who run a theater that has no roof but does quite well with the locals.
This is unlike any documentary I have seen because of its extremely cinematic style. I am used to the “on the fly” type of documentaries with the grainy footage and shakey camera operator, but this film is shot on beautiful 35mm and has a large amount of dolly, crane, and tracking shots. All of this makes the film feel a bit scripted, although I do have to say that all of these people are so interesting in their own unique ways that all the fancy camera work doesn’t matter a whole bunch.
Overall, the person with the greatest story had to be Penny. She is just this lonely woman in a very small town and really the only thing she has is her theater. Every time her segment is on I felt more captivated because she embodies someone who truly loves film. Even if the movies she screens aren’t exactly the most artistic ones, (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”?), you can still see just how much she cares about it all.
This is a very fun documentary. All of the theater owners bring something new to the table and are fascinating to watch, plus the fact that it is different than the standard shakey-cam documentary is commendable, even if sometimes the technical aspects of it seem so scripted.