Discover China: Generations of rural movie projectionists keep tradition alive
HANGZHOU, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- A projector, piles of filmstrips, and a wall or a piece of cloth are all Zhu Qiang and his father Zhu Shengrong need for their "mobile cinema" in Maming Village, east China's Zhejiang Province.
As summer vacation started and with the gradual revival of open-air events amid regular COVID-19 prevention and control measures, the 33-year-old projectionist and his father resumed nighttime film screenings in village squares.
Known as the third and the fourth generations of local projectionists, they took over the job from their predecessors, 85-year-old Wang Zhihua and his apprentice Zhu Wenbing, who began to show movies in the village about 60 years ago.
"It was very difficult to show movies at the beginning. There was only one movie team in every county and each team had to cover 20 to 30 villages," said Wang, who began his career in 1952 as one of the first local projectionists after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Wang recalled his days loading up a boat with projection equipment and traveling along the waterways to bring the magic of the silver screen to villagers throughout the region.
"Without television or radio at that time, watching movies gradually changed from a kind of curiosity to a necessity for the villagers," Wang said.
In 1973, he started his first training course to pass down his projection techniques. Zhu Wenbing became one of his three students.
According to Zhu, movie screenings were a big event in the 1970s and 1980s. They would put up a written poster a week in advance and they showed movies three times a month in over 10 villages in turn. All the nearby villagers, together with their relatives and neighbors would gather to watch the films.
Sometimes he had to travel to three different locations for screenings on one night. The third movie often started after midnight but there were always groups of people waiting for him in high spirits.
In his eyes, apart from folk storytelling and singing in the local dialect, watching movies was a window for the villagers to learn about the outside world.
In 1986, Zhu Shengrong took the baton. Since the early 1990s, more and more theaters have been built in China's rural areas. Showing movies for the elderly and children in remote areas became his duty.
He formed a team, installed a projector on a motorcycle and traveled around the villages. He also took the opportunity to teach the villagers how to use air conditioners, refrigerators, computers and other modern home appliances.
Although the movie projection mission was no longer just about screening films, Zhu thought it meaningful to bring happiness to the villagers and enrich the cultural life of rural areas.
Today, as digital movies become more accessible, Zhu Shengrong thinks outdoor film screenings will come to an end. However, his son Zhu Qiang, who grew up in the projection team, hopes to spread the traditional movie culture on campuses and pass it down to future generations.
In 2016, the young man set up a movie exhibition hall of 300 square meters in the village, which shows his collection of almost 100 antique projectors from all over the country and piles of newspaper clippings that record the development of movie projection in Maming. Enditem