The conditions of presentation of a work strongly modify its perception, furthermore the urbanism testifies the shift of a society’s centers of attention; The Last Picture Show evokes, through the disappearance of these so particular places that are African local movie theatres, the one of a vector of culture, education, exchanges and wonder, which contributes to the social bond.
These places are not ruins or contemporary affectations. They are engaged in a silent battle.
As you step over the threshold, nostalgia envelops you. Brimming with history and soul, these relics resound with the emotion and laughter of thousands and a collective memory.
Resisting obliteration, these spaces are alike in that they all share a profound union with one person. The fragile endurance of these cinemas would not be possible were it not for the passion of select film-makers battling to revive them, and the projectionists, turned stubborn caretakers. And there they remain—places and watchmen—awaiting rebirth, or a viable solution. Time and space hover, holding their breath in this space in-between.
They stand in limbo: not completely abandoned, not yet revived. Deserted not desolate, closed down but dear. They flutter between a flourishing past and an uncertain future. Between entertaining and sustaining. Between two worlds: the collective and the private; fiction and reality, presence and absence. And between spirits: a melancholy of sorts and a determined hope.
Cinema has always had a particularly important role in Mali, embodying art and infrastructure, leisure and social cohesion, and cultural and cross-generational encounters. Political films often disinhibit the sentiments of the people, following the verbal tradition of palavers and stories by exploring age-old themes such as family, taboos and communication, with a healthy dose of fun.
The Last Picture Show is a series of portraits of these silenced African cinemas and their protectors: projectionists without reels and directors without screening venues who know that if men build spaces, some spaces may also contribute to building mankind.