(Uli Gaulke, Germany, 2006) 100 minutes


Director: Uli Gaulke
Producers: Helge Albers, Roshanak
  Behesht Nedjad, Konstantin Kroning
Screenplay: Uli Gaulke, Jeanette Eggert
Cinematography: Axel Schneppat
Editor: Andrew Bird
Music: Mark Orton
Penny Tefertiller
Lassane Badiel
Lamoussa Luc Kabore
Zakaria Gnegnie
Anup Jagdale
Han Yong-sil

Reviews and notes

2006 Pusan
2007 Sundance, Berlin, Wellington

This documentary valentine to the pleasures of cinema looks at four independent theatre owners in very different parts of the world who dedicate their lives to showing films. Anup traverses India with his cinema tent, which bursts at the seams when he shows his latest hit. Han Yong-sil runs a propaganda cinema in agrarian North Korea and wants to improve people's lives. Lassane and his friends have risked everything to set up an open-air cinema in Burkina Faso, the world's poorest country. And in Wyoming we meet Penny, whose cinema has been an integral part of her small town's social life for generations. Director Uli Gaulke was once a projectionist, and his passion for celluloid is evident in this labour of love, shot on beautiful 35mm film and employing a large amount of dolly, crane and tracking shots. An affectionate ode to independent cinema owners the world over that demonstrates the universal and unifying power of movies, and draws us into the hearts and souls of these very different individuals in the way that only great cinema can.
- Wellington Film Festival 2007.

An entertaining world tour of small-town movie houses and the dedicated cineastes who maintain them, COMRADES IN DREAMS is a delight. Helmed by German documaker Uli Gaulke (Marry Me), pic criss-crosses India, Burkina Faso, North Korea and the U.S., and should get its passport ready for fests worldwide; programmers will be scrambling for this item, which will appeal to hard-core film buffs and general auds as well... While there are obvious differences between each interviewee, the docu also makes much of the things subjects have in common, despite their geographical distance. The problems each encounter will generate a sense of deja vu for exhibitors everywhere.

Twenty-five-year-old Anup Jagdale, caught by the helmer setting up his circus tent and huge screen in the impoverished Indian town of Shingnapur, has the same aim as the three men of Burkina Faso, who lease a defunct roofless cinema from a government municipality, and the woman who runs the barn-like Flick theater in Big Piney, Wyoming, with a staff of volunteers: all are trying to make a living from showing movies.

Even though she is not looking to turn a profit, Han Yong-sil, the only female technician in North Korea and a 30-year vet of the film industry, is looking for pics that will encourage workers to do their best and help her comrades achieve collective prosperity.

Each subject has to take the films they can get. Han's preferred film for Chongsan-ri's Cultural House Cinema goes to another cinema, while the trio of African entrepreneurs who run the "Emergences" cinema almost lose their print of Kim Basinger vehicle Cellular.

Of the four nationalities on offer, only the North Korean cinema gets real exposure. The propaganda qualities of romancer Our Flavor are obvious from clips. But Gaulke shows little interest in the influence of Indian or American cinema on the lives and perceptions of their native audiences.

Helmer uses James Cameron's Titanic to draw a connecting line between the four locales. Jagdale explains that his poverty-stricken landlocked auds don't understand the story of Cameron's blockbuster and cannot conceive of such a big ship or of so much water. In contrast, the desert-dwelling African women speak of what Titanic teaches them about true love and fidelity. In a departure from the pic's frank, but generally light-hearted interviews, Flick manager Penny Tefertiller can't keep from sobbing when a staff member describes the loneliness of the people huddled in the post-iceberg lifeboats.

While the co-ordination and execution of such a globetrotting docu must have required intricate planning, helming is rather passive. Gaulke is satisfied with using the camera mostly as an observer, and letting auds connect the dots, such as the counterpoint between Wyoming's obese soda and popcorn consumers and the leaner movie patrons of the developing world.

Original soundtrack by Mark Orton skillfully incorporates the regional flavor, but maintains a consistency that prevents jarring transitions. Despite what must have been trying conditions in most locations, tech credits are strong.
- Russell Edwards, Variety, 17 October 2006.

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