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Last of the Celluliod Chronicles

Last of the Celluliod Chronicles

Empty cinema hall just before a show starts.

Cinema in Bangladesh is on a decline. Once a weekly adventure for teenagers and adults alike, it has now become perhaps a yearly venture for most. The advent of fast internet and portable devices which gives us multitudes of entertainment sources have made going to cinema a process which most of us think is too much work for entertainment. This has affected the whole cinema industry and axe has  fallen mostly on the neck of the hundreds of cinema halls which once had house full shows all month long but now only entertains a few handful each show. Since the 2000, as many as 914 cinema halls has been closed down and only 224 are still operating.

A young man’s reflection at a broken mirror wall in a cinema hall.

Due to the decline in viewers, the once grand and gorgeously decorated structures are now empty halls and desolate run down spaces run by the most minimal of staff possible. This has resulted in demolition of cinema halls all across the country to make space for commercial buildings and new kind of cineplexes. The economically weak cinema halls are being bought and brought down as most of them are situated in prime real estate areas. The ones that are still surviving are in bad shape and has become places dark in nature. Chairs in the cinema halls have pests, paints are decaying and the facilities does not have minimum hygienic situation in them. The projection systems of the old days that ran the celluloid films have seen the last of their days and has been replaced by cheap digital projectors that is nowhere near the old ones. Staff live inside the projection rooms to save housing costs. Cinema halls had once been famous for the grand structures in a locality. Now, most of the halls have turned into run down spaces with walls losing plasters, decaying paints, mirrors and decorative items falling apart, sanitation facilities becoming like sewers. There are not enough lights and the halls cannot even afford to pay their electricity bills properly now a days. And this fallen economic situation has given birth to newer much dangerous problems in this once social places of entertainment.  Drugs and prostitution has become an open secret in these places, just under the noses of the authority. The people running the cinema halls are often the ones in management of these illegal trades.

The projection machine operator sulking alone in his operating room, in the back is his cooking utensils. He lives in the same room.

This project documents the cinema halls and the people involved in their struggle to survive and to document them in their current situation of all across Bangladesh. Initially this project started in Dhaka, the capital. The portfolio shows the initial stage of work which has been done in Dhaka and its suburbs and needs to be continued in other cities to create an aspect with greater geographical, economic and socio cultural context. Therefore, documentation of the cinema scene is necessary throughout the country. And once it is done, the project can be continued in India and Nepal, which will give us a greater context on this in the subcontinent. During travels and research it was found that the situation is similar in those countries and a continuation of the project on primary basis can be done in West Bengal in India. Where similar transformations are taking place. Though with much better fortune for the cinema halls. This project thus is important to document the change in scenery of the once dominant medium of public entertainment in this region.

Reels of celluliod.

An empty cinema hall, running a show.

A ticket seller sleeping in his booth due to lack of sales

A poster of a cinema, with overgrown plants in an abandoned cinema hall

A cinema hall being broken down because of loss in business.

A construction worker in a cinema hall that is being broken down.

A cinema hall staff looks at fire works while his empty hall runs a show.

A coming soon place card lying on the ground in an abandoned cinema hall.

Reels of celluloid hanging from the broken down roof of a cinema hall which is being demolished.

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Aneek Mustafa Anwar

Aneek Mustafa Anwar is a documentary and portrait photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He has done several projects such as cultural phenomena, climate change,… More »

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