Last Film Show
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed for Film Factual by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Pan Nalin
Writer: Pan Nalin
Cast: Bhavin Rabari, Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, Paresh Mehta, Vikas Bata, Rahul Koli, Shoban Makwa, Kishan Parmar, Vijay Mer, Alpesh Tank, and Tia Sebastien
Screened at: FYC screener, LA, 1/2/23
Opens: December 2nd, 2022
There’s a reason there are so many movies about making movies. Filmmakers are attracted to the medium for a variety of reasons, but there are surely a great deal of formative moments in which those who know spend the majority of their time behind a camera first came to understand the power of cinema. In 2022, films like The Fabelmans and Empire of Light celebrated the art and the experience of making and going to the movies, and Last Film Show puts its own spin on the allure of moving images.
Nine-year-old Samay (Bhavin Rabari) has his life changed when his tea seller father Bapuji (Dipen Raval) takes his family to see a movie, claiming that it’s permissible only because it’s a religious film. Quickly astounded by what he sees, Samay regularly sneaks away from school to watch other films, something made possible after he befriends the local projectionist, Fazal (Bhavesh Shrimali). Though his father beats him every time he catches him indulging in his newfound passion, Samay rallies his peers to make use of what they have around them to simulate what they can of the movie magic.
India’s shortlisted Oscar submission for Best International Feature couldn’t be more different from the film that famously was not selected and is still emerging as a strong awards season player, RRR. Yet the latter film boasts exactly the type of escapism and mesmerizing staging that would enthrall Samay, who is astonished by the excitement possible with clever manipulation of light and the spectacles that can be accomplished. Samay eagerly watches the same films over and over, and is ecstatic to learn from Fazal, to whom he supplies food cooked by his mother, about how film reels are fed to produce the moving images projected to the screen.
There is a marvelous sense of wonder present in this film, which allows Samay, who spends the time he is not supposed to be in school hawking tea to train passengers briefly stopping at his local station. His father has suffered misfortunes that only continue throughout the film, including the news that the train will now pass through his station without stopping, rendering his entire business redundant. He holds firm beliefs about how his son should grow up, and being a dreamer and an artist is at odds with the unfortunate reality he has had to endure in order to provide for his family.
In his film debut, Rabari proves himself to be more than capable of carrying an entire movie, communicating a frustration with the banality of his life and a desire to do something more. Samay’s delight at getting to watch movies and to understand the process of creating them is aided greatly by Fazal, with Shrimali, also acting in his first film, imbuing the projectionist with a similar obsession, one that has not faded in adulthood but instead turned into a different way of expressing that love.
This film is not an indictment of his lifestyle or of those who live where he does, but instead one that shows the tremendous power of imagination. Samay and his friends ride around with colored filmstrips over their eyes like sunglasses, giving themselves a new filter through which to see the same sights but with an enhanced degree of appreciation. It’s an infectious experience that should be very capable of spreading joy to others, ending on an upbeat note that feels to a degree like a fantasy but one that’s perfectly fitting for the tone of this film, one that emphasizes the idea that a slight change in perspective can be just enough to change an entire experience.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+